Stellenbosch University
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Collaboration with scientists from Africa
Author: C van der Vyver
Published: 01/06/2017

In April, Dr Ethel Phiri and Dr Natasha Mothapo visited the University of Lagos (UniLag), Nigeria, to facilitate new collaborations with African universities in order to strengthen the African research domain. Both Drs Phiri and Mothapo are National Research Foundation Innovation Postdoctoral Research Fellows at Stellenbosch University (SU). Dr Phiri is based at the Institute for Plant Biotechnology (IPB), while Dr Mothapo is affiliated to the Department of Botany and Zoology. Their visit was sponsored by the Research, Innovation and Postgraduate Studies office at SU, the Africa Collaboration Grant (SU International's Centre for Collaboration in Africa), Whitehead Scientific, and the International Foundation for Science.

Their hosts at UniLag, specifically Dr Agboola and Prof Umebese, are based in the Faculty of Science, Department of Botany and Microbiology. Numerous discussions with several role-players at UniLag were all aimed at promoting the establishment and growing of a network of African universities in order to strengthen the African research agenda. As Dr Phiri said, "There is an actual hunger for knowledge from people coming from African institutions to learn." Both Drs Phiri and Mothapo gave a heart-warming account of their vision regarding African research networks in an SU Africa Day video (25 May 2016).

In addition, Ethel and Natasha presented seminars at the Faculty of Science. In particular, Dr Phiri gave an overview of SU, her academic profile and current research, the importance of African orphan crops, the African Doctoral Academy as well as the African research agenda and collaborative research. Dr Phiri's lecture was titled African orphan crops: Africa's food security in a changing environment. Her current research interest at the IPB is focused on the transcriptomics of indigenous orphan crops. She also has vested interests in promoting Africa as a research-forward continent. "We are the generation of researchers that should be focusing on Africa's research problems," Dr Phiri said. As a highlight of this, Ethel and Natasha recently made a contribution to The Conversation Africa on the impact of biotic and abiotic stresses on orphan crops and the impending food security threat thereof. The article can be read here.

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