UP’s Prof Vukosi Marivate joins World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders programme

Posted on March 15, 2023

The University of Pretoria’s (UP) Professor Vukosi Marivate, in the Department of Computer Science and ABSA UP Chair of Data Science, has been accepted into the Forum of Young Global Leaders (YGL). The programme was established by the World Economic Forum (WEF) in 2004 to gather and train some of the world’s most outstanding young people to address the world’s most pressing issues.

In addition to joining a global network of over 1 500 members and alumni from 120 countries who are leading governments and Fortune 500 companies, and who have won Nobel Prizes and Grammy Awards and serve as UN Goodwill Ambassadors, Prof Marivate will take part in a personalised three-year leadership development programme including education modules, peer mentoring, global and local gatherings, and participation in WEF events.

“I am very honoured by this inclusion,” Prof Marivate said. “It fills me with pride and is not just a reflection of myself but also those who I have worked with and those who have supported my journey as a scientist.”

As the holder of the ABSA UP Chair of Data Science, his work with his research group, Data Science for Social Impact, focuses on two pillars: “First it is the intersection of artificial intelligence (AI) and language – especially African languages – and how to create new tools, methods, and approaches. We are one of the leading groups in this area and work to also support the wider African Natural Language Processing community. Second is the intersection of data science and society. The latter deals with more than technical issues; it deals with how we can make data science or machine learning tools useful for society in general. This means our group works in areas such as health, education, the environment, and more.”

Professor Wynand Steyn, Dean of the UP Faculty of Engineering, Built Environment and Information Technology (EBIT), home to the Department of Computer Science, congratulated Prof Marivate on his acceptance into the YGL Forum. “The EBIT Faculty is focused on excellence, not only in our research, but in fostering greater international collaboration. The recognition of Prof Marivate as an exceptional young global leader is testament to the impact of and respect for his research in data science and AI, not only in South Africa and Africa, but around the world.”

Joining a global network of high-impact leaders creates the chance for Prof Marivate to promote his research and other goals in new ways. “I am hoping to use the platform to continue shining a light on African research in AI and natural language processing,” he said. “To improve the research in general requires ways for us to raise the percentage of GDP per capita investment that African countries are putting into research and development. This will only come from public-private partnerships across the continent. I hope to expand my networks in this area, and I would like to be able to create partnerships that allow our research to make it into the hands of those who need it most. The YGL community will allow for collaboration towards this end.”

Professor Tawana Kupe, UP Vice-Chancellor and Principal, commended Prof Marivate on his admission into the YGL Forum. “"As a leading research intensive African university which is globally, connected, networked and partnering  with various collaborators  for our research to create greater social impact. UP is already one of South Africa and Africa’s largest research-producing universities, and transdisciplinary and international collaboration help boost our research and its impact even further. Prof Marivate’s passion for ensuring that African languages also benefit from the boom in artificial intelligence tools is helping to shape a better and stronger Africa, and I am sure I speak for all my colleagues when I say we are excited to see how his membership of the YGL Forum will help him and UP create even greater social impact.”

Prof Marivate thanked the University of Pretoria and ABSA for their support in his research. “UP and the ABSA Chair have allowed me a platform to investigate research problems that I am passionate about. The support of students, collaborators, research staff and admin has created an environment that has allowed us to focus on scientific rigour that is locally relevant to our country, continent, and beyond. I look forward to being part of the community and actively participating and contributing to a vibrant YGL community.”

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