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Thursday, 03 June 2010

CPUT celebrates contributions of Africans to research on Africa Day

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The Transformation Office in collaboration with the Office of International Affairs hosted the Africa Day celebrations on 25 May 2010 at the Bellville Campus’ Auditorium.

The event - with the theme: African Scholarship - paid special attention to the contributions of Africans to research and development, with the ultimate view of promoting economic growth and wealth.

After CPUT Vice-Chancellor, Prof Vuyisa Mazwi-Tanga, made her welcoming speech, several researchers and academics addressed the gathering, covering a wide range of papers in keeping with the theme for the day.

Dr Daniel Nyanganyura of the International Council for Science (ICSU) Regional Office for Africa spoke about: Strengthening African Scientific Research for the benefit of Society;Prof Stephanie Burton, Director of Postgraduate Studies at CPUT, covered the importance of postgraduate research and training in Africa and Dr Chris Nhlapo, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Technology Innovation and Partnerships, looked at Strengthening the Diaspora Network to contribute to research and innovation.

Africa Day commemorates the founding of the Organisation of African Unity on May 25 1963. On this day, leaders of 30 of the 32 independent African states signed a founding charter in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Similarly, the Auditorium portrayed the same spirit in the kaleidoscopic African dress code, comments and opinions expressed on the day. The poetry and the sounds of the Djembe drums reconnected the audience in one spirit.

Dr Nhlapo painted a bleak picture of the research output of Africans as compared to other nationals when one looks at researchers per one million inhabitants.

Africa has 78 researchers per million inhabitants as compared to the U.S.A and Japan which respectively boast 4006 and 5206 researchers per million inhabitants. South Africa on the other hand has 309 researchers per million inhabitants.

Dr Nhlapo said the African Union and Nepad need to play their coordinating and facilitating roles to address the issue of brain drain, and every country needs to establish its own Diaspora database that can be used to create African Diasporas master database.

He said there is a need for the development of a national policy to link development needs with Diaspora resources and to guide activities. “African governments need assistance to effectively harness their Diaspora potential. They should demonstrate their commitment to retain and to re-attract skilled personnel at home and take initiatives to mobilize the diaspora,” said Dr Nhlapo.

Professor Thandi Matsha of the Biomedical Sciences Department deliberated on SA's contribution towards Africa's Development with regards to Research. Prof Matsha participated in panel discussions which also included speakers from Nigeria, Gabon and Zimbabwe.

She said the Ministry of Science and Technology had spent R1, 1 billion rand in research, development and innovation programs while a further R1, 6 billion was spent on human capital and R1, 2 billion on socio-economic partnerships programs.

She diffused some long held fallacies about Africa by mentioning that the Timbuktu Manuscripts which date as far back as the 13th century “Hold the key to some of the secrets of the continent's history and cultural heritage - and shatter the conventional historical view of Africa as a purely ""oral continent"".

The manuscripts provide a written testimony to the skill of African scientists, in astronomy, mathematics, chemistry, medicine and climatology in the Middle Ages”.

Mrs Merle Hodges, Director of International Affairs, said her department would like to pay tribute to their late colleague Jabu Mazibuko, who always had dreams for the development and cultural exchange as espoused by speakers in the recent event.

By Thami Nkwanyane

Photograph: Members of the CPUT community that attended the Africa Day celebrations.

Written by CPUT News

Email: news@cput.ac.za