On 2 March 2022, the University of Pretoria (UP) launched the SDSN South African Network during a hybrid event at the prestigious Future Africa campus. The event was hosted by the Albert Luthuli Leadership Institute and graced by a plethora of esteemed guests spanning across all disciplines from the private sector to academia to presidency and higher-education institutions, all collectively passionate about achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. This level of transdisciplinary and cross-sectoral engagement is was exactly what the founders had in mind when the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (the SDSN) was created in 2012 under the auspices of the UN Secretary-General, to promote integrated approaches to implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, through education, research, policy analysis, and global cooperation. The objective of the National Network is to mobilise and support South African universities and other leading research institutions to promote the SDGs in South Africa, as well as South Africa’s contribution to the SDGs globally.
Prof Labode Popoola, Chair of SDSN Nigeria and Keynote speaker for the Launch, provided fundamental insights on SDSN Nigeria, its impact in the country as well its growth prospects and opportunity for further development.
The panel discussion, moderated by the Chair of SDSN South Africa Network, Professor Tawana Kupe, considered the role of networks in increasing the impact of universities in relation to the Sustainable Development Goals. Prof Kupe urged for cohesion and collaboration between academics, the public sector and the private sector in order to achieve the SDGs. Three members of the local Leadership Council of SDSN South Africa, Dr Thandi Mgwebi, Deputy Vice Chancellor: Research, Innovation, and Internationalisation Nelson Mandela University; Mr Lawrence Matemba, Acting Head Policy and Research Services for the Presidency and Prof Peter Lennie, Executive Director of the Worldwide Universities Network, contributed from the perspective of the sector they each represent concerning how networks with universities might be leveraged to increase impact towards attaining the SDGs.
Dr Heide Hackmann, Interim Director Future Africa at UP, provided a summary of four key points from the discussion:
1. Pursuing universal goals in a divided World - Dr Hackmann highlighted the current global status quo and the challenges it poses, from a global pandemic to geopolitical tensions and the threat of war and the critical role of science and science diplomacy.
2. The role of science - Identifying pathways to global sustainability and assisting in the creation and promotion of policies and public action that will enable societies to travel along these pathways.
3. The nature of partnerships - The need for action-oriented transformative partnerships that lead to real impact across science and society as well openness to diversity, equality and inclusivity of ideas and people.
4. Recognising that we all believe in the value of partnerships - The need to transcend boundaries between fields, institutions and sectors even if there are existing tensions and competition creating obstacles for an effective network. Because “no single country, no single discipline and no single institution can tackle the SDGs on their own.”
Kindly Click below to watch the full Launch: