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World Refugee Day: Helping refugees, asylum seekers feel at home in SA Refugee Day: Helping refugees, asylum seekers feel at home in SAYeukai Chideya<p>​​World Refugee Day is observed annually on 20 June. In an opinion piece for the <em>Daily Maverick,</em> Yeukai Chideya from the Institute for Life Course Health Research writes that we should strive to create a culture that accepts and supports refugees and asylum seekers, and makes them feel at home in South Africa.<br></p><ul><li>Read the original article below or click <a href=""><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0">here</strong></a><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0"> </strong>for the piece as published.<br></li></ul><p><strong>​Yeukai Chideya*</strong><br></p><p>Observed annually on 20 June, <a href=""><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0">World Refugee Day</strong></a> draws our attention to the plight of millions of people who had to flee their home country to escape conflict, persecution, human rights violations, and violence. The theme for 2024 is "Promote Empathy and Understanding." Globally, there are over <a href=""><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0">36 million</strong> </a>refugees and asylum seekers with about<a href=""> <span class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0"><strong>half</strong></span></a><span class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0"> </span>of them children. The number of refugees and asylum seekers is expected to continue <a href=""><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0">increasing</strong></a><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0"> </strong>due to ongoing violent conflicts worldwide.<br></p><p>According to the <a href=""><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0">United Nations Refugee Agency</strong></a>, South Africa hosts approximately 250,000 refugees and asylum seekers from various parts of Africa. Unlike some host countries, South Africa does not implement a camp policy. As a result, many refugees and asylum seekers struggle to integrate into local communities due to challenges such as language barriers and lack of understanding of the culture. This difficulty is worsened by widespread<a href=""> <strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0">xenophobia</strong></a>, often triggered by the absence of effective integration programmes that could help locals understand the experiences of refugees and asylum seekers. Consequently, refugees and asylum seekers are frequently viewed as a threat by local residents, who are already struggling with limited resources due to high levels of poverty and unemployment in South Africa.</p><p>In 2012, while working at <a href=""><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0">The Trauma Centre for Survivors of Violence and Torture</strong></a> (hereafter referred to as The Trauma Centre), I was entrusted with leading a project focused on providing psychosocial support to refugees. As a social worker, my responsibilities included providing counselling, facilitating group therapy sessions, and referring refugees and asylum seekers to appropriate institutions. These institutions included healthcare facilities and non-governmental organisations that offered limited <a href=""><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0">essential resources</strong></a>, such as food parcels, as well as services like English language training and craft-making workshops to help the refugees earn an income.<br></p><p>Providing support to refugees and asylum seekers was one of the most challenging tasks I had undertaken, as I often felt helpless due to our clients' significant socio-economic and safety concerns and needs. Before fleeing to South Africa, some had witnessed their families being massacred, experienced sexual violence or were forced to harm their loved ones. Despite having endured horrendous torture and trauma in their home countries, which required psychosocial intervention, the refugee and asylum seeker clients primarily requested practical and safety assistance. Addressing these urgent socio-economic needs was particularly challenging given the limited resources available to them.<br></p><p>Another significant challenge faced by refugees and asylum seekers in South Africa is the difficulty in renewing their legal documentation. The process can be very frustrating, often requiring internet access or travel fare, both of which are not readily available due to limited finances, internet literacy, and access to a computer or smartphone. The lack of legal documentation makes it challenging for refugees and asylum seekers to find employment and provide the quality of life they had hoped for their children. Each family member must apply for their own documentation, and it is not uncommon for children born to refugee or asylum-seeker parents to complete Grade 12 without legal documentation. Not only does this hinder the children's ability to further their <a href=""><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0">education</strong></a><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0"> </strong>and find a job, but also increases their risk of remaining stateless, perpetuating the cycle of hardship from which their parents have been unable to escape.</p><p> Another challenge I encountered as a trauma counsellor was male refugees and asylum seekers not being able to provide for their families. Many of them had good, well-paying jobs in their home countries before fleeing to South Africa. Unfortunately, they either could not bring their certifications with them, or their educational qualifications were not recognised in South Africa. With the high unemployment rate in the country, refugees and asylum seekers must scramble for the limited informal jobs available. The mounting bills and pressure tear families apart or force them to enter into exploitative high-risk employment conditions. <br></p><p>Refugee and asylum-seeker children are particularly vulnerable to <a href=""><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0">bullying</strong></a><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0"> </strong>at school due to their nationalities, extreme poverty, and different accents and appearances compared to the locals. Bullying may lead to children <a href=""><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0">dropping out of school</strong></a>, depriving them of a fair chance to rebuild their lives. Additionally, some refugee and asylum-seeker parents do not allow their children to play outside for fear of xenophobic attacks. This further isolates the children, hindering their <a href=""><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0">development</strong>.</a> </p><p>During my time at The Trauma Centre, I spent countless hours in the emergency room at the local hospital with refugee clients who were actively suicidal. I frequently wrote referrals to psychiatrists to assess clients for depression and often sent letters or physically accompanied my clients to various institutions in attempts to secure assistance for them. The sad reality is that there are many refugees and asylum seekers in need and very few resources available to support them.<br></p><p>Since 2020, I have been a researcher at the<a href=""> <strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0">Institute for Life Course Health Research</strong></a><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0"> </strong>at Stellenbosch University. A few months ago, I worked on a research project titled “Understanding the Support Available to Refugee Children and Their Families," in partnership with the <a href=""><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0">University of Bath</strong></a> and The Trauma Centre. It was quite disheartening to observe that, despite four years passing since I left the Trauma Centre, refugees and asylum seekers continue to face the same challenges, and in many cases with their plight worsening.</p><p>As we celebrate World Refugee Day, we must also ask ourselves the following question: How can we 'promote empathy and understanding' for refugees and asylum seekers in South Africa? One way to assist is by partnering with and donating to organisations such as The Trauma Centre,<a href=""> <strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0">Scalabrini</strong></a>, and the <a href=""><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0">Adonis Musati Project</strong></a>, which run programmes to support refugees and asylum seekers. </p><p>I strongly believe that by working together, we can assist refugees and asylum seekers in rebuilding their lives. For instance, in 2016, I began providing psychosocial support to a client, Ms. X, whose refugee application had been unsuccessful. She was in distress and needed urgent legal assistance. I contacted the <a href=""><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0">Refugee Rights Unit </strong></a>at the University of Cape Town, and they agreed to take on her case. Ms. X met with her assigned lawyer for several sessions to work on her appeal and provide a detailed account of why she had fled her country—something she had been unable to do during her initial refugee application interview due to fear. Within a couple of months, Ms. X's asylum-seeker status was restored. A year later, she was granted refugee status. </p><p>As a country that aims to prioritise human rights, ubuntu, and equality, let us strive to create environments and a culture that accept and supports refugees and asylum seekers. We all have a role to play in helping them feel at home in South Africa.<br></p><p><strong>*Yeukai Chideya is affiliated with the Institute for Life Course Health Research in the Department of Global Health at Stellenbosch University.</strong> <strong>The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of SU.</strong></p><p> </p><p>​<br></p>
A different kind of partnership needed to protect SA’s vulnerable environment different kind of partnership needed to protect SA’s vulnerable environmentAnél du Plessis <p>​Collaborative environmental governance is a key approach to addressing the challenges posed by the dynamism and uncertainties associated with the global ecological crisis and the ways in which it is playing out in South Africa. This is the view of Prof Anél du Plessis, Chair: Urban Law and Sustainability Governance at Stellenbosch University, in a World Environment Day (5 June) opinion piece for the <em>Mail & Guardian</em>.</p><ul><li>Read the original article below or click <a href=""><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0">here</strong></a><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0"> </strong>for the piece as published.</li></ul><p><strong>​Anél du Plessis*</strong><br></p><p>The tentacles of the global ecological crisis reach everywhere as it manifests in 'grand' challenges such as climate change, biodiversity loss and plastic pollution. Very few countries are not affected by the ongoing destruction of the Earth's systems supporting human life. </p><p>This year's <a href=""><span class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0"><strong>World Environment D</strong><strong>a</strong></span><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0">y</strong></a><strong> </strong>(5 June) follows shortly after millions of South Africans casted their vote towards the election of a new National Assembly and provincial legislature in each of the country's nine provinces. It offers an opportune moment to stand still with what our country's Constitution commands of political leaders as far as the protection of water, soil, air, and biodiversity as well as the promotion of environmental justice are concerned.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">Section 24 of the Constitution determines that everyone in South Africa has the right to an environment that is not detrimental to their health or well-being and to have the environment protected for the benefit of present and future generations. The same right calls for reasonable 'law' (legislation) and 'other measures' that prevent pollution and ecological degradation, promote conservation and secure ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources. This suggests that government intervention is indispensable.<br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">Over the past 30 years, South Africa did well in establishing a solid legal (legislative) basis for environmental protection, environmental justice and steering development decisions mindful of the fact that most natural resources in the country are finite and extremely vulnerable. Despite not having dedicated environmental courts or an environmental ombudsman, the judiciary has thus far also not shied away from commanding respect, protection, promotion and fulfilment of the environmental right on the part of government and private sector actors. Overall, the legal architecture for sound environmental management is intact – especially in the national government sphere.<br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">In 2023, our government published its <a href=""><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0">State of the Environment Report</strong></a>. One gleans from this report that the country's natural resources and ecosystems are under severe pressure with serious concerns being raised around issues such as highly threated estuarine and inland wetland ecosystems, dwindling water availability and a decline in river ecosystem conditions, high levels of ambient air pollution and its impact on human health, as well as escalating waste generation and under-protection of species such as butterflies, mammals, plants and amphibians. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">Recent years have also shown how exposed communities in South Africa are when severe weather events strike. We saw how the one-in-400-year drought between 2015 and 2018 took the City of Cape Town with its around 4.6 million residents to the brink of 'Day Zero'. A similar historic drought occurred in Gqeberha at around the same time, but it lasted much longer.  The Knysna fires in June 2017 cut a path of devastation through the town which resulted in the largest number of buildings destroyed by fire ever in South Africa, and the tragic loss of lives. <br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">In April 2022, the KwaZulu-Natal coastal zone, including the greater Durban area and the South Coast, received more than 300 mm of rain in 24 hours. This led to calamitous flooding, with more than 400 people losing their lives. Over 4000 homes were destroyed and 45 000 people were temporarily left unemployed. The cost of the infrastructure destroyed, and the related business losses amounted to an estimated US$ 2 billion or R37 billion. <br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">These events, aggravated by an ongoing national energy crisis, deepening urban and rural poverty and aging service delivery infrastructure, are foregrounding legally relevant questions concerning loss, damage, liability and accountability. In turn, these questions cause one to wonder what then does a constitutional environmental right and a suite of national environment laws even mean?  And further, what does the state and volatility of the environment suggest for the incoming leadership of this country?<br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">It is high time that our politicians see the global ecological crisis as critically relevant and real in South Africa and internalise the importance of collective action beyond legislation to ensure that our natural resources are responsibly used and protected. Far too little attention is paid to chapter 3 of the Constitution which commands the national, provincial and local authorities as well as departments spread across the three spheres of government to work together. All of our country's leaders are instructed to “secure the well-being of the people", to “provide effective, transparent, accountable and coherent government for the Republic as a whole" and to “co-operate with one another in mutual trust and good faith" by “assisting and supporting one another" and by “co-ordinating their actions and legislation with one another". This is a message emanating from the Constitution, but also one that is reverberated across many a law applicable to intergovernmental relations and cooperation in different governance sectors.<br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">The state of the environment and persistent pockets of environmental injustice arguably require a coalition or partnership of a different kind.  On World Environment Day it is necessary for leaders representing very different and not-so different political parties, as well as those who voted them into power, to embrace the <em>power of collaboration</em>. Environmental destruction affects all of us and will continue to affect future generations. Collaborative environmental governance is a key approach to addressing the challenges posed by the dynamism and uncertainties associated with the global ecological crisis and the ways in which it is playing out in South Africa. Collaborative environmental governance commands commitment and solidarity in seeing multi-level management plans and environmental management principles work with lasting positive impact.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">With a new political era being ushered in, the constitutional environmental right's call for 'other measures' towards people's health and well-being is resounding. As our democracy matures and political parties negotiate with each other to prioritise and compromise in the hope to govern well during the five years ahead, one trusts that South Africans' health and well-being will be a decisive factor. Hopefully, our deep dependence on natural resources and our collective responsibility to care for the environment will serve a unifying role within a new government that has but little choice to take hands in moving this country forward in a sustainable way.<br></p><p style="text-align:justify;"><strong><em>*Prof Anél du Plessis is Professor of Law and Chair: Urban Law and Sustainability Governance at the Faculty of Law at Stellenbosch University.</em></strong></p><p style="text-align:justify;"> </p><p style="text-align:justify;"> </p><p style="text-align:justify;"> </p><p style="text-align:justify;"> </p><p>​<br></p>
African scientists call for equitable research partnerships to advance microbiome research scientists call for equitable research partnerships to advance microbiome researchFaculty of Science (media & communication)<p></p><p style="text-align:justify;">Leading African scientists have issued a compelling call for more equitable research partnerships in a new paper published in <a href=""><strong><em>Nature Medicine</em></strong></a>. The paper underscores the critical need for fair and collaborative research efforts to explore the unique and diverse microbiomes found in African populations and environments. Historically, these microbiomes have been underrepresented in global studies.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">​Over the past two decades, our understanding of the role played by the microbiome in different ecosystems has significantly expanded. For example, recent studies have provided important insights regarding the role of the microbiome in human health and disease. These studies suggest that the microbiome is highly diverse, in terms of its composition, and varies considerably across different scales. However, generalizing findings across different populations remains challenging due to these compositional differences. Moreover, the lack of comprehensive studies in low- and middle-income countries has resulted in a substantial knowledge deficit, particularly on the <a href="">African continent</a>. There is strong evidence that Africans harbour highly diverse and distinct microbial communities. Despite this, few microbiome studies have been conducted on the continent. The few studies on African microbiomes are typically conducted without the participation of African scientists, raising concerns about scientific equity and "scientific colonialism."</p><p style="text-align:justify;"><strong>Key points from the paper:</strong></p><ol style="list-style-type:decimal;"><li><strong>Need for local leadership:</strong> Empowering African scientists to lead research initiatives ensures culturally relevant and impactful studies. The paper highlights the importance of local research leadership in shaping and guiding microbiome research.</li><li><strong>Ethical and equitable partnerships:</strong> The authors advocate for partnerships based on mutual respect and shared goals. This includes clear guidelines on data ownership and fair distribution of research benefits.</li><li><strong>Government involvement:</strong> National governments play a crucial role in supporting research through policy development, funding, and creating a conducive regulatory environment.</li><li><strong>Standardized protocols:</strong> Establishing standardized procedures for microbiome research will enhance the reproducibility and consistency of findings, facilitating global collaboration and knowledge sharing.</li></ol><p style="text-align:justify;"><strong>Quotes from the authors:</strong></p><p style="text-align:justify;">"Investment in local research infrastructure and capacity building will not only advance microbiome science but also contribute to health equity and precision medicine on a global scale," added Dr. Ovokeraye H Oduaran, lead-author and microbiome expert.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">"We previously highlighted the need for increasing studies on <a href="">African microbiomes</a>. As Africans, we must be at the forefront of these studies because they directly impact on our own communities and ecosystems. We need equitable partnerships for achieving meaningful and sustainable research outcomes," said Professor Thulani Makhalanyane, co-author and microbiome scientist. </p><p style="text-align:justify;"><strong>Proposed implementation framework:</strong></p><p style="text-align:justify;">The paper presents a detailed implementation framework to guide equitable research practices. This framework emphasizes ethical considerations, community involvement, capacity building, multidisciplinary collaboration, knowledge translation, and standardized workflows. Key pillars of this framework include:</p><ul style="list-style-type:disc;"><li>Local Research Leadership: Empowering local scientists to ensure research is culturally and contextually relevant.</li><li>Contextualized Global Research: Addressing local public health priorities while aiming for globally applicable solutions.</li><li>Ethical Partnerships: Establishing fair engagement practices with shared goals and clear guidelines on data and sample ownership.</li><li>Standardized Protocols: Implementing standardized procedures for sample collection, storage, and analysis.</li><li>Government Involvement: Encouraging active participation of national governments in research initiatives.</li></ul><p style="text-align:justify;"><strong>About the authors:</strong></p><p style="text-align:justify;">This call to action is authored by a diverse group of African scientists from leading universities and research institutions across the continent. Their expertise spans computational biology, human and environmental microbiomes. The authors are committed to advancing scientific knowledge and improving health outcomes through equitable and collaborative research practices.<br></p><p>​<br></p>
Proud leader of ACEWATER-III leader of ACEWATER-IIIDaniel Bugan<p>​​​Stellenbosch University (SU) will take the lead in a project worth 5 million euros (R100 million) to undertake research and capacity development with the aim of improving transboundary water resource management across Africa.  <br></p><p> The ACEWATER-III project was officially launched in Nairobi, Kenya, in April 2024 and will be implemented from 2024 to 2028. Funded by the European Commission, the project will involve:</p><ul><li>scientific, technology and innovation research for increase Transboundary Water Resource Management; </li><li>human capacity development through short courses; </li><li>short-term mobility opportunities between partners; </li><li>research and skills exchanges; and </li><li>engagement with policy stakeholders. </li></ul><p> <strong>Wide implementation network</strong></p><p>The project will be implemented by SU along with 20 partner institutions in the AUDA-NEPAD Networks of Water Centres of Excellence, and the EU delegation to South Africa. The AUDA-NEPAD Networks of Water Centres of Excellence is a network of higher education and research institutions that conduct high-end scientific research and capacity development in the water and related sectors of the Southern African Development Community (SADC). Member institutions are from South Africa, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Malawi, Mauritius, Kenya, Uganda, Sudan, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Benin, Burkina Faso and Senegal. The body received its mandate in 2005 from the African Union through the African Ministers' Council on Water (AMCOW) and the African Ministers' Council on Science and Technology (AMCOST).</p><p> Dr Nico Elema, director of SU International's Centre for Collaboration in Africa, will be the project lead. He also facilitated the launch of ACEWATER-III along with the other AUDA-NEPAD network partners, AMCOW, the regional economic communities in Africa, and representatives of the European Commission in Nairobi. “SU has been contracted by the EU delegation to South Africa to lead this third phase of the ACEWATER project. Yet we are also working very closely with EU Water in Brussels and the EU Joint Research Centre (EU JRC) in Italy as we build on many years of science diplomacy," Elema says.</p><p>“Our job is to make sure that all the activities are implemented through our network partners in the various African countries," he adds. “Each one of them will undertake research and capacity development within the river basin organisations in their regions. The SU Water Institute will also contribute some research and training."</p><p><strong>Aiming for meaningful impact</strong></p><p>The aim is for the research and capacity development activities to have a meaningful impact on Transboundary Water Resource Management, Elema says. “We must have an impact on society in terms of our policy engagements and the knowledge that we generate. Through AMCOW, we work very closely with the ministers of water across the continent, so at the end of the day, we would like our research to have an impact on their policy decisions.</p><p>“It is also about joint learning," he continues. “We are all good at something, but not everything. If we, as a network, can bring our strengths together, we really can become excellent. With the very high level of stakeholder engagement involved in this project, we need to make sure that we have a positive impact on the African water and sanitation space."</p><p> Elema says even though ACEWATER-III project was only officially launched in April, the network partners have already started identifying the research projects and training they would like to undertake.​</p><p>​<br></p>
Forging ties across Africa ties across AfricaDaniel Bugan<p>​​Stellenbosch University (SU) International's Africa Partnership Development portfolio is making great strides in facilitating collaboration and capacity development among institutions on the continent. The portfolio, located in SU International's Centre for Collaboration in Africa (CCA), is led by Norma Derby.<br></p><p> <strong>Partnerships for Africa</strong></p><p>Derby's main responsibilities are to manage partnerships with the rest of Africa, facilitate student and staff mobility in Africa, and coordinate SU events with an African focus. “We manage partnerships by supporting faculties with new and renewable agreements, and undertaking and receiving delegation visits," she explains. The portfolio is also represented in the SU International working group for agreement development to keep abreast of developments and aligned with SU's partnership goals.</p><p>“Student and staff mobility, in turn, ensures capacity-building and exposure," Derby says. This normally takes the form of capacity development for African master's and doctoral students. “We also host events to commemorate Africa Day (25 May) and Africa University Day (12 November) every year. These are used as a platform for emphasising Pan-Africanism," she adds.</p><p><strong>A snapshot of recent and upcoming work</strong></p><p>Some of the more recent interventions that the portfolio has facilitated include:</p><ul><li>a delegation visit from the University of Luanda (Angola) and the subsequent drafting of an agreement between the two institutions' vice-chancellors to be finalised in June 2024;</li><li>two visits from the Institute of Finance Management in Tanzania, followed by the signing of a letter of intent in March 2024; </li><li>a delegation visit from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) in Kenya in 2023, and a reciprocal visit by SU shortly thereafter; and</li><li>hosting students from Institut National Polytechnique (INPHB), Cote D'Ivoire, for the Intensive English Language programme in 2023.</li></ul><p>The months ahead will see:</p><ul><li>further collaborations to host students from INPHB and the University of Luanda for the Intensive English Language programme in June and July 2024; </li><li>SU staff members attending a conference hosted by the University of Luanda;</li><li>bilateral partners from Kenya, Namibia, Uganda and Ghana visiting SU to discuss their potential inclusion in the list of Semester Abroad programmes that SU students can choose from; and</li><li>collaboration with Tanzania's Institute of Finance Management to design a staff mobility programme for that country's government officials.​<br><br></li></ul><p><strong>Driving Africa's rise as key global stakeholder</strong></p><p>Derby says all interventions aim to foster Pan-African collaboration, promote the academic expertise of junior scholars across the continent, and develop a strong network of African academics. “This will contribute to a more skilled and knowledgeable workforce and drive Africa's rise as a key global stakeholder."</p><p>Other initiatives in the CCA that facilitate bilateral collaboration with partners in Africa include the <a href="/english/AfricaSU/Pages/Africa-Collaboration-Grant.aspx"><span style="text-decoration:underline;">Africa Collaboration Grant</span> </a>and the Intra-Africa Academic Mobility Scheme. The former makes available grants for research visits, conference participation, the hosting of senior visiting scholars, and support for postgraduate students and postdoctoral fellows. Between 2010 and 2024 a total number of grants awarded is 280.The latter fosters student and staff mobility across Africa by providing scholarship opportunities for postgraduates and development programmes for staff.<br></p><p>​<br></p>
Disaster risk scholars engage at first Periperi U CARP workshop risk scholars engage at first Periperi U CARP workshop SU International <p><span style="text-align:justify;">T</span><span style="text-align:justify;">he Periperi U secretariat, situated in Stellenbosch University (SU) International's Centre for Collaboration in Africa, hosted its first workshop under the Climate Adaptation Research Programme (CARP) at Ardhi University in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The aim of the event, held from 30 October to 2 November 2023, was to help establish the CARP community, which offers early-career and established African professionals working in the climate adaptation field a platform to network, engage and collaborate.</span><br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">Among the 70 participants were Tanzanian government officials, underscoring the importance of engagement between risk reduction practitioners and policymakers to address the continent's climate adaptation challenges. </p><p style="text-align:justify;"><strong>Cross-border collaboration</strong></p><p style="text-align:justify;">CARP is run in partnership with the Humanitarian Assistance Technical Support (HATS) project at the University of Arizona and is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Its intention is to support applied climate adaptation research in Africa, with a particular focus on the implications for disaster risk reduction policies and strategies.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">Apart from Tanzania, countries represented at the workshop included South Africa, Senegal, Nigeria, Algeria, Kenya, Uganda, Madagascar, Ethiopia, Cameroon, Morocco, Rwanda and the United States. Participants included emerging scholars from the 33 CARP research projects taking place across ten African countries. The programme featured several discussion sessions, group activities, research poster presentations as well as field excursions to project sites focused on reducing flooding vulnerability and risk in Dar es Salaam. </p><p style="text-align:justify;"><strong>CARP expansion plans formalised </strong></p><p style="text-align:justify;">The event also saw the Periperi U secretariat sign an agreement with the University of Arizona to expand CARP up to 2028. The expanded initiative, CARP-PLUS, with its additional budget of $2,05 million will provide more funding for vital climate change and disaster risk research, travel to major strategic events, and sponsorship to attend training across the continent.  </p><p style="text-align:justify;">The next CARP workshop will be held in 2024 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. <br><br></p><p>​<br></p>
Strengthening Africa’s presence in global research arena — Prof Wim de Villiers Africa’s presence in global research arena — Prof Wim de VilliersWim De Villiers<p>​​Africa Universities' Day was celebrated recently (12 November). In an opinion piece for the <em>Cape Times</em>, Rector and Vice-Chancellor of Stellenbosch University Prof Wim de Villiers writes that purposeful research collaborations will go a long way in addressing the formidable challenge to level up with Western research and restore Africa's rightful place in global scholarship and research excellence.</p><ul><li>​Read the article below or click <a href=""><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0">here</strong></a><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0"> </strong>for the piece as published.</li></ul><p><strong>Wim De Villiers*</strong><br></p><p>“Confronting the challenges of our time differently and more purposefully."  With this apt expression at the launch of the Clusters of Research Excellence between leading African and European universities, Prof Ernest Aryeetey of the Alliance of Research-intensive Universities in Africa (ARUA), summed up the task at hand to ensure that researchers and scholars on the continent uphold and advance Africa's contribution to the world's generation of scientific knowledge.<br></p><p>Despite considerable growth over recent decades, Africa's share of global science production currently stands at 8 per cent. This is clearly insufficient for a continent of 1.3 billion people whose population is expected to almost double by 2050.<br></p><p>On this Africa Universities' Day, celebrated across our continent every 12<sup>th</sup> of November, we take a moment to reflect on the remarkable progress made in the field of higher education.</p><p>The 20 Clusters of Research Excellence (CORE), an initiative of ARUA and the Guild of European Universities, are focused on bringing the best enquiring minds together across scientific disciplines and continental boundaries to tackle some of the most intractable challenges of our time – from preparing the world to fight future pandemics better, to mitigating the devastating effects of climate change.<br></p><p>This collaborative approach for greater societal impact was amplified at the Times Higher Education's World Academic Summit held recently in Sydney, Australia, with the theme: <em>Collaborating for greatness in a multi-disciplinary world</em>.</p><p>Delegates from 50 countries explored how institutions can best collaborate both internally (across departments to accelerate transformative and translational research) and externally (to strengthen regional, national and global collaboration) to enhance the role of universities as key drivers of change within society.<br></p><p>A salient feature of the discussions at the Summit with reference to research collaboration is the challenge of establishing equitable partnerships in a deeply unequal world. Thus, transformative research and a wider endorsement of the Africa Charter for Transformative Research Collaborations enjoyed much attention as a means of finding practical solutions to the scientific challenges of our time and building capacity of the next generation of researchers for Africa and the globe.<br></p><p>At Stellenbosch University (SU), doing research “differently and more purposefully" across regional and continental boundaries has become an institutional ethos – underpinned by innovative thinking and significant investment in accelerating the skills capacity of our continent. <br></p><p>The launch of the billion-rand state-of-the-art Biomedical Research Institute (BMRI) at our Tygerberg campus earlier this year is aimed at collaborative research that will exponentially boost the research capacity in biomedical sciences and holds the promise to revolutionise healthcare on our continent. <br></p><p>Genomic surveillance to control pathogen infections in South Africa, Mozambique, Kenya, Belgium and Germany are well underway and our Centre for Epidemic Response and Innovation (CERI) is assisting 44 African countries with training and capacity building through their Genomics Service and Country Support.<br></p><p>Our researchers have joined forces with European and regional counterparts to respond to pandemic and epidemic pathogens such as COVID, HIV, influenza, tuberculosis, malaria and cholera. <br></p><p>The quest to strengthen Africa's presence in the global research arena, is further underpinned by the Nobel in Africa Symposia where SU is partnering with the Stellenbosch Institute for Advance Study (STIAS) in an initiative that has a special focus on Africa and to nurture future generations of scholars and intellectual leaders on the continent. <br></p><p>The Nobel in Africa Symposia bring together some of the world's top scientists to deliberate on new research discoveries and developments in their field. The first symposium on Physics was held in October last year and was followed by and equally formidable symposium on Chemistry at the end of last month. The symposia, with a strong outreach element, are deliberately aimed at university academic staff and students with the objective to inspire the next generation of scholars on the continent.<br></p><p>There can be no doubt that purposeful research collaborations are powerful instruments to deliver greater, scale-able impact on the communities that we serve – locally, regionally and globally.  It will go a long way in addressing the formidable challenge to level up with Western research and restore Africa's rightful place in global scholarship and research excellence.<br></p><p><strong>*Prof Wim De Villiers is Rector and Vice-Chancellor of Stellenbosch University, South Africa</strong></p><p>​<br></p>
AI in Africa is about people, language and contextual innovation – and higher education can help in Africa is about people, language and contextual innovation – and higher education can helpDr Jan Petrus Bosman<p>​African artificial intelligence (AI) is about people. As the Stellenbosch University (SU) representative in <a href="">AHEEN</a>, I was struck by the story of a data science intern in a Kenyan refugee camp. She worked with a refugee-led student support organisation and applied her data science knowledge and skills in the organisation and to the problems at hand. The feedback on her work was incredible and showed just how much difference a skilled graduate can make in even just a short time. AI in Africa should focus on our talented and resourceful people who can use their AI-related data science skills to bring measurable change where it is needed most.<br></p><p> African AI is about language. The <a href="">Deep Learning Indaba</a>, initiated by <a href="">Prof Vukosi Marivate</a> of the University of Pretoria, and its grassroots AI projects, <a href="">Masakhane</a> and <a href="">Lelapa AI</a>, develop large language models for African languages. The project is described as “a grassroots natural language processing (NLP) community for Africa, by Africans". Here, we see the power of language, which is such a defining feature of our diverse, multilingual continent. While existing large language models (such as ChatGPT) lean towards English and Western languages, these projects help establish an African language, thought and philosophy approach to the training of AI systems. Locally developed AI tools will better serve our African thinking and doing, feeding our insights into the global community. In this way, we can create a more decolonised future in which AI systems 'think through' isiXhosa, isiZulu, Sesotho, Afrikaans, Arabic, Swahili and the like to provide equal and just information, learning, services and opportunities to all African communities.</p><p>African AI is about innovation and contextual entrepreneurship. In his contextual innovation and entrepreneurship course developed for the agrisciences industry, Dr <a href="">Albert Strever</a> (SU) intentionally incorporated AI tools such as ChatGPT and QuillBot in the students' curriculum and learning activities. In the process, he invested in the students' AI literacy and prepared them for a near future where the question will not be whether humans will be replaced by AI, but whether humans <em>with</em> AI will replace humans <em>without</em> AI (<a href="">Prof Karim Lakhani</a>). Lecturers should become leaders in incorporating the AI insights of their disciplines into their own teaching, learning and assessment. And, of course, lecturers themselves should also <a href="">learn about AI in higher education</a>!</p><p> AI tools are now available to all higher education stakeholders (students, lecturers and support staff). By focusing on people, language and contextual (Africa-oriented) innovation, African higher education can contribute immensely from a global south perspective. There are a plethora of new social entrepreneurial ideas just waiting to be turned into reality with the help of our computer, data and machine-learning scientists for the benefit of society.</p><p>I conclude with the underpinning philosophy of the <a href="">Deep Learning Indaba</a>, which strongly resonates with me:</p><p><em> “We work towards the goal of Africans being not only observers and receivers of the ongoing advances in AI, but active shapers and owners of these technological advances."</em></p><p>​<br></p>
Networks taking internationalisation forward taking internationalisation forwardProf Hester Klopper, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Strategy, Global and Corporate Affairs<p>​In August, the International Network of Universities (INU) celebrated its 25<sup>th</sup> anniversary in Hiroshima, Japan. It was an auspicious occasion, more so for Stellenbosch University (SU), as it was the first coming together of the network under SU's presidency, which we will hold until 2025.<br></p><p>For me personally, it was an honour to preside over the occasion as INU President. INU counts among the most prestigious networks to which SU belongs.</p><p>The INU value statement reads as follow: “We value the development of globally engaged and socially responsible change agents who commit to understanding and addressing the complexities of global and local political, economic, social, cultural and environmental challenges."</p><p>Furthermore, INU believes that by working together, universities can drive meaningful change on various levels – locally, nationally, regionally and globally. This is grounded in the conviction that partnerships and networks are essential for universities to realise their institutional goals and objectives and drive change and progress in society.</p><p>This aligns and resonates with the SU Internationalisation Strategy, which sets a high value on networks such as INU. We endeavour to seek out such mutually beneficial networks where we are able to engage and partner with the world's foremost universities.</p><p>In fact, network engagement is part of SU's Vision 2040. To us, networks offer an innovative way of expanding our global footprint and taking internationalisation in higher education forward into the future.</p><p>Networks increase their members' global profile and enable our researchers and students to collaborate in many ways. This is why SU currently belongs to at least 34 networks, of which more than 12 are on the African continent and the rest abroad.</p><p>In future, SU will continue to play an integral role in global networks as a means of taking internationalisation forward.</p><ul><li><strong><em>Prof Hester C. Klopper, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Strategy, Global and Corporate Affairs</em></strong></li></ul><p><strong> </strong></p><p>​<br></p>
“Looking back is looking forward…” - The next 30 years of internationalisation at SU.“Looking back is looking forward…” - The next 30 years of internationalisation at SU.Robert Kotze, Senior Director: SU International <p>​​​​Stellenbosch University is celebrating 30 years of internationalisation this year and SU International is preparing for an external peer review – lots of looking back happening… <em>Can looking back, be looking forward?</em></p><p> <span style="text-align:justify;">The review is focusing on our alignment with and contribution to SU's Vision and the SU Internationalisation Strategy and on what is in place to deliver our value proposition. It is giving us the </span><strong style="text-align:justify;"><em>possibility</em></strong><span style="text-align:justify;"> to provide a broad and well-informed snapshot of where we are on our journey of </span><em style="text-align:justify;">Improved consolidation, Enhanced alignment and Augmented moving forward</em><span style="text-align:justify;">, our base-line motto for post-COVID to make the most of the known and new </span><strong style="text-align:justify;"><em>possibilities</em></strong><span style="text-align:justify;"> for the </span><strong style="text-align:justify;"><em>people</em></strong><span style="text-align:justify;"> in SU International and the broader SU community, our </span><strong style="text-align:justify;"><em>place</em></strong><strong style="text-align:justify;">.</strong></p><p style="text-align:justify;">The snapshot has already brought the following considerations to the fore:</p><ul><li>Newly established entities, like the SDG/2063 Hub, the SU Unit for International Credentialing, the SU Japan Centre, and our engagement with the GUILD of European Research-Intensive Universities are in support of the SU aspiration to be “a proud African knowledge hub that serves the continent through research, innovation and education." In its own right, each one of the entities also contributes to SU's sustainability, “a national asset that serves the diverse needs of our communities".</li><li>SU International is promoting the eight dimensions of the SU Internationalisation Strategy with wide-ranging <strong><em>possibilities</em></strong>: We are dared to build bi- and multilateral partnership for research collaboration to move beyond mere transactional engagements to stronger collaborative transformative programme development. There are also many <strong><em>possibilities </em></strong>for including Globally Networked Learning opportunities in our partnerships.</li><li>There is continued high levels of interest from various stakeholders to visit SU to strengthen existing or to explore new <strong><em>possibilities</em></strong>. Within this stakeholder engagement, the extensive contacts during our own international visit add to the <strong><em>possibilities</em></strong> for going forward. The big question here is: To what extent do we follow up and take matters further? </li><li>There is huge anticipation to see the outcomes of our first year of engagement with international student marketing platforms. How many “clicks" have translated into applications and admissions? How many will eventually register in 2024? Was it possible to increase our 4,2% international undergraduate registrations in 2024? Did it have an impact on SU's commitment to provide access to SA students?</li><li>The Africa bilateral partnership development portfolio is similarly faced by <strong><em>possibilities</em></strong> regarding partnership mapping and development, moving the partnerships on the transactional ß à transformational continuum through including, for example, the UMOJA student leadership initiative, SDG/2063 perspectives and scholarship development into partnership augmentation plans. There might be even <strong><em>possibilities</em></strong> to reframe some partnerships into <em>Thematic bilateral partnerships</em> for more focus,</li><li>Incoming Study Abroad (free movers) numbers have grown as a result of SU's interaction with SKEMA Business School. What is the scope, again <strong><em>possibilities</em></strong>, for growing this portfolio to ensure financial sustainability regarding outgoing mobility bursaries and maintaining, and even strengthening, the SU International service delivery platform?</li><li>We have moved forward regarding our Employment Equity profile. How do we translate that commitment to inclusion into a more diverse cohort of outgoing mobility students? Is it only about increasing the travel bursary amount?</li><li>The portfolio of short-term mobility programmes is significant. Growing the portfolio will need more capacity. However, there is a <strong><em>possibility</em></strong> to go beyond the number of programmes by integrating them within the overarching Global Education Programme to ensure that we contribute to our Global Student Learning Outcomes (GSLOs).</li><li>We have moved forward with creating internationalisation <strong><em>possibilities</em></strong> for PASS colleagues. The notion of “being an internationalisation practitioner" is gaining traction. How do we continue facilitating wider understanding and embracing of internationalisation in the institution beyond SU International?</li><li>Regarding scholarship development, we can point to milestones – a solid roadmap illustrating progress. To what extent should we go beyond the capacity building of the PhD pipeline? How do we submerge the <strong><em>possibilities</em></strong> into our Africa partnerships and our work in African multilateral networks?</li></ul><p style="text-align:justify;">The first part of the stocktaking, compiling the report, has already prompted the above possibilities. It informs our looking forward:</p><ul><li>Bringing all global education initiatives within the Global Education Programme will contribute towards i<em>mproved consolidation.</em></li><li>Further alignment of the new initiatives with SU's aspirations and further development of the international undergraduate student marketing initiatives within the overarching institutional student recruitment imperatives will ensure overall <em>enhanced alignment</em>.</li><li>“Sweet spot" development for each African partnership, a mid-term review of the Partnership Framework and growing the profile of our outgoing student cohort regarding inclusion will facilitate <em>augmented moving forward</em>.</li></ul><p style="text-align:justify;">The engagement with the review panel is forthcoming. This will further help us to learn and look forward to finetune our responses towards the already emerged (“looking back") <strong><em>possibilities</em></strong> and to create an appropriate optical prism for <strong><em>possibilities</em></strong> on the horizon.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">As SU International, we are ready to learn from the review process – from one another, from the review panel and from internal stakeholders. This will enable us to co-create new milestones regarding the <strong><em>possibilities</em></strong> for the <strong><em>people</em></strong> in SU International and the broader SU community, our <strong><em>place</em></strong>, all for the next 30 years.</p><p> </p><p>Robert Kotzé</p><p>21 August 2023</p><p> <img src="/english/PublishingImages/Lists/dualnews/My%20Items%20View/SUI%20stand%20wall%20250%20cm%20x%20400%20cm%20at%20half%20size.jpg" alt="SUI stand wall 250 cm x 400 cm at half size.jpg" style="margin:5px;width:851px;" /><br></p><p><br></p><p><br></p><p>​<br></p>