Since its official inauguration on 19 March 2007, the UPWI has seen unprecedented success in achieving its aim of providing a research and education platform for meeting the water challenges facing South Africa and the African continent in a sustainable manner. This institute functions under the leadership of Prof Eugene Cloete, Head of the Department of Microbiology and Plant Pathology and leader of the Southern Education and Research Alliance (SERA) Water Task Team.
“Currently the world is experiencing a water crisis. This is largely a matter of governance issues including: sector fragmentation, poverty, inadequate finances, declining levels of development assistance and investment in the water sector, inadequate institutions, human capacity limitations and limited stakeholder participation and most notably the lack of information sharing,” says Prof Cloete.
According to Prof Cloete, the collection, dissemination and exchange of water related information and know-how is therefore a matter of priority to improve the sharing of knowledge and building human capacity concerning water-related issues.
As a primary focus, the UPWI’s capacity building initiatives have gained significant momentum with some 45 students currently enrolled at the MSc and PhD level. This includes students from Kenya, Eritrea, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Nigeria, Canada, Germany and Mozambique.
The Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) is ranked amongst the top four universities in the US and is part of the University System of Georgia. The Georgia Water Resources Institute was established by public law in 1964 and is part of a network of water resources institutes operating in each US state. Georgia Tech and GWRI have worldwide research and education involvement including North and South America, Europe, China, Singapore, India and Africa. In particular, GWRI’s involvement in Africa spans more than 20 years and has focused on developing prototype information and decision support systems for water, energy, and environmental resources planning and management in the Nile and the Congo River Basins. This work is carried out collaborative with the Governments of Burundi, Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.
“Sustainable water resources development and management are key to economic development and societal change in Africa,” says Professor Aris Georgakakos, Director of GWRI. “This is because water resources are the basis of agricultural activities which, in Africa, employ more than 80% of the labor force and generate more than 50% of the GDP. Moreover, water resources support hydropower development which powers industrial growth,” he adds.
“Comprehensive appreciation of all water related issues and disciplines is of vital significance for effecting environmental and socio-economic change,” says Professors Cloete and Georgakakos. The joint MSc degree was conceptualised with these needs in mind. This educational and applied research program is called AWARE and combines the expertise and strengths of the two water institutes, and aims at creating qualified human resources that will serve ably African governments, industries, and academia.
“Our expectation is that it will become a world-class Water Resource Institute that will make a tangible difference in Africa and the world at large,” states Professors Cloete and Georgakakos.
The delegation from the Georgia Institute of Technology that will be present at this momentous event includes: Dr Andy Smith (Senior Vice Provost, Academic Affairs), Dr Steve McLaughlin (Vice-Provost, International Affairs), Prof Aris Georgakakos (Director: Georgia Water Resources Institute) and Mr Stephen Fleming (Director: Commercialisation Services).
The launch took place on 19 June 2008.