Stellenbosch University's (SU) internationalisation efforts and how it has been embedded in collaborations across the African continent took centre stage during its Africa Day celebrations on Tuesday 25 May 2021.
The theme of the virtual commemorative event was “Leveraging Stellenbosch University's partnerships to advance knowledge and innovation in service of society".
Prof Hester Klopper, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Strategy and Internationalisation at SU, said Africa Day is an opportunity to reflect on what the African continent has achieved, the great potential it holds and the role that science, technology and academics play in moving the continent forward.
She added that within the South African context, where high levels of crime and immorality is so prevalent, there is also an opportunity for academics to pause and think about the contributions they can make and the integrity they can bring to the process.
“We often think of our continent as a place where there are only challenges to overcome, but there are also so many opportunities and so much potential. So as we celebrate today we − from industry players across all the different sectors to those in education − have an opportunity to address these challenges with African solutions. And we can only do that through collaboration and partnerships, we can't do it on our own. Indeed we are stronger together."
Klopper highlighted a few collaborations and partnerships which she said are key to SU's commitment to promote scholarship and research across the African continent. This included the Periperi U network (an acronym for “Partners Enhancing Resilience for People Exposed to Risks") which has spread to 12 universities across Africa. There is also the African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) of which SU is one of 16 partner universities from sub-Saharan Africa. ARUA aims to increase the quality of research on the continent.
Dr Nico Elema, manager of SU's Centre for Collaboration in Africa, gave an overview of some of their partnerships and collaborations with African countries.
According to Elema, SU has 33 bilateral institutional and faculty agreements in place with countries in Africa. They have also issued 297 Africa Collaboration Grants (ACG) between 2010 and 2021. The ACG is made available to postgraduate students, post-doctoral fellows and SU staff who visit, or host, one or more of SU's institutional bilateral partners in Africa for research, workshops and conferences.
He said SU also recently partnered with the African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD) and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to establish a new Centre of Excellence in Science, Technology and Innovation.
The AUDA-NEPAD Centre of Excellence in Science, Technology and Innovation (AUDA-NEPAD CoE in STI) will be tasked to implement AUDA-NEPAD's mandate to coordinate and execute priority regional and continental projects to promote regional integration towards the accelerated realisation of Agenda 2063, and to strengthen capacity of African member states.
The AUDA-NEPAD CoE in STI will thus aim to identify, integrate and continentally implement proven scientific and technological innovations from both the CSIR and SU and other associated partner organisations. It will also leverage and connect innovations to national/regional development planning and implementation processes as development solutions, with the intention to scale up implementation and thereby enabling science, evidence-based development decisions and solutions.
“At the end of the day we will be able to speak to ministers of countries and make them aware of our research, innovations and technologies and where they fit in and how they address Agenda 2063 aspirations," said Elema.
He said the centre has identified 38 initial innovations aligned with the Agenda 2063 impact areas of industrialisation and wealth creation; shared prosperity and transformed livelihoods; human capital development and transformed institutions; and natural resources management and environmental resilience. These are innovations coming out of long-running programmes in the SU and CSIR project clusters, and represent widely tested and proven technologies or practices. These include diagnostic and surveillance systems to manage disease outbreaks; remote sensing for precision agriculture; vaccine development for COVID-19; text-to-speech technology and climate change community of practice.
“As a trilateral partnership between AUDA-NEPAD, the CSIR and SU, our objective is to identify three to five initial innovations by the end of the year which we want to move forward, scale up and roll out across the continent," said Elema.