Research opens doors between Unisa and the AUC

Unisa researchers, Ethiopian researchers, and a representative from the African Union Commission, Charles Wangadya (far right)

Unisa researchers, Ethiopian researchers, and a representative from the African Union Commission, Charles Wangadya (far right)

A research initiative to train researchers on the objectives of Agenda 2063 is opening doors between the African Union Commission (AUC) and Unisa, said Charles Wangadya of the commission’s Strategic Planning, Monitoring and Resource Mobilisation Directorate at the closing of the first round of research workshops in Addis Ababa.

A team of researchers from the College of Economic and Management Sciences (CEMS) met with some 12 researchers in Malawi, Zimbabwe, Kenya, and Ethiopia during May and June to train them in the objectives of Agenda 2063 with the theme The Africa that we want.

This is in response to an agreement that was signed in October 2014 between the African Union (AU) and Unisa to cooperate on research support and the development and implementation of the Africa Agenda 2063 by Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Prof Mandla Makhanya, and Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, AU chairperson.

The agreement provides a basis for various joint platforms on capacity building and research in the areas of governance, agriculture, land and environment, women and children, communication, education and training, economic development, astrophysics, genocide studies, investment in people, and institutional development.

Prof Tabani Mpofu, CEMS Deputy Executive Dean, confirmed the main message of the agreement: that research that does not speak to solving problems and addressing the needs of our continent is irrelevant. He reiterated that researchers have an obligation to discover and inform policy and dialogue in shaping the “Africa we want”.

The CEMS research team currently comprises Mpofu and professors Valiant Clapper, Joseph Chisasa, Simon Radipere, Ophillia Ledimo, Nisha Sewdass, and Truida Oosthuizen, together with Josephine Njuguna and Shad Godi. The researchers from other African countries who participated are affiliated to a number of universities. These include the University of Malawi, Solusi University, the University of Addis Ababa, Mekelle University, KCA University, and the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology.

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At the original signing of the agreement, the VC said it would reinforce and reinvigorate Unisa’s work and vision as the African university shaping futures in the service of humanity. “The AU’s efforts to make the 21st century an African century and to ensure that the Africa Rising Story is sustainable will be assisted by the involvement of the research, academic and policy institutions like Unisa,” he said at the time.

According to Mpofu, the current research initiative addresses this. The research projects that are currently being undertaken include research on

  • standard of living and quality of life; incomes, jobs and youth unemployment
  • education and skills revolution
  • transformed economies
  • enterprise development – growth of SMMEs to large-scale enterprises
  • sustainable and inclusive economic growth
  • industrialisation and value addition
  • economic diversification and resilience
  • modern agriculture for increased productivity and production
  • environmentally sustainable and climate resilient economies and communities
  • biodiversity, conservation and sustainable natural resource management
  • water and food security
  • financial and monetary institutions that serve the continent in the 21st century and beyond
  • democracy and good governance
  • empowerment of women and girls

The workshops closed off in style with a dinner in Addis Ababa with the African Union Commission in attendance, where Wangadya emphasised the need to popularise Agenda 2063 in schools, universities and society at large to enable every citizen on the continent to identify with the aspirations of Agenda 2063 to begin to live the ideals of the “Africa we want”.

*By Ilze Crous