Kgomotso Madiba is a multifaceted young woman whose identity has been shaped by both her academic and non-academic life. She enjoys the arts, history, literature, languages, and music – with jazz being her favourite genre.
But she's also one of the first recipients of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Annual Scholarship that was introduced in 2022.
The research scholarship was established in February last year in honour of the SADC founders/founding nations and is meant to recognise and honour the founders for their contribution to the establishment of the community and their “pursuance of a solid regional integration" and development agenda. It is available to postgraduate researchers who hold an MA degree as a minimum and is “planning to pursue research or further their studies at doctoral or post-doctoral level" in any discipline.
Madiba describes herself as a “university hopper" – she completed her Bachelor of Social Sciences in International Studies at the University of Pretoria, and an LLB from the University of the Witwatersrand. She is currently pursuing her Master of Law (LLM) degree at Stellenbosch University (SU).
It was thanks to the SU Law Faculty, she says, that she found out about the postgraduate scholarship.
Her interest in the law is inspired by the positive role that she believes it can play in society.
“The law offers a framework that guides our interaction with others and with institutions. Our societies constantly evolve, advance, and undergo modifications. Be it politically, economically or with values and beliefs, the law ensures that all living under and through these modifications are represented, providing protection and dignity to individual rights and freedoms, and thus ensuring an equitable society," explains Madiba, who grew up in Motetema village near Groblersdal in Limpopo.
She was chosen for the scholarship after making it through a two-stage application process. Her application ensured that she was nominated by the Department of Higher Education and Training to represent South Africa in the second round of application evaluations between the different SADC member states. Her application came out tops, along with four other candidates, from the 16 SADC member states, making them the inaugural recipients of this prestigious scholarship.
Madiba is clear about the opportunities this scholarship will bring to her.
“Being a recipient of the SADC scholarship has empowered me as a young African woman. It is already difficult to get scholarships to further your education, particularly in the law field. Receiving the scholarship also affirmed me, affirmed my dreams and my confidence in so many ways. SADC took a leap of faith in investing in me," she says.
“Good economics on their part because I intend on using this opportunity to contribute towards the betterment of our regional community."
Her Master's Degree in International Trade Law will involve studying institutions and society in SADC and focuses on strengthening economic integration in the region, with particular emphasis on the SADC Free Trade Agreement and the implications on regional economic integration.
“This LLM course exposed me to the subject of free trade and open markets and how they could benefit and possibly advance the lives of people In African countries. Reading further, I learned that Regional Economic Communities had a much greater role to play in the implementation of these policies. This interested me and prompted me to do research on how this can be realised. I am passionate about the development of this continent, and I am willing to contribute however I can towards its greatness."
For Madiba, the success of Africa will not be possible without women, their empowerment and support structures being put in place to ensure their participation in its development. Quoting the words of Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the first African Director-General of the World Trade Organisation, Madiba believes that “investing in women is smart economics, and investing in girls, catching them upstream, is even smarter economics."