Scientists develop leadership capacity in round four of the ASLP

Posted on May 07, 2018


Twenty-one outstanding scientists from all the major regions of the African continent participated in the fourth round of the Africa Science Leadership Programme (ASLP), which is part of the University of Pretoria (UP)’s Future Africa initiative, undertaken in partnership with the Global Young Academy.

The scientists represent the basic and applied sciences, and span a wide variety of disciplines, including the social sciences and humanities.

The programme dealing with ‘Leading a new paradigm for African Science’ entailed a week-long workshop. The fellows delved into topics such as collective leadership, strategic thinking, interpersonal and general science communication, and how these shape research that impacts the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the African Union 2063 Agenda. The SDGs are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. It includes 17 goals involving areas such as, for example, climate change, innovation, peace and justice and economic inequality. The African Union 2063 agenda is a strategic framework for the socio-economic transformation of the continent over the next 50 years. It builds on and seeks to accelerate the implementation of past and existing continental initiatives for growth and sustainable development.

Leaders in academia and research, science communication and leadership theory and practice joined the fellows for interactive sessions. The workshop will be followed by a year of application and mentorship, with a follow-up workshop planned for March 2019.

A number of key speakers injected inspiration into the group during interactive sessions. Prof Cheryl de la Rey, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of UP, shared thought-provoking ideas on how to build trust in research, science and society. She believes that society’s trust in leaders is vital for the advancement of science, and that scientists should make concerted efforts to gain and maintain this trust through practising and communicating science for society.

Prof Derick de Jongh, Director of the Albert Luthuli Centre for Responsible Leadership, shared his expertise on the role of responsibility in leadership; Prof Stella Nkomo, extraordinary professor in the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, talked about finding your scholarly voice as a key part of academic leadership; and Prof Willem Fourie, associate professor at the Albert Luthuli Centre for Responsible Leadership, engaged with the group on the fundamentals of research styles of leadership, with a specific focus on Africa.  

Prof Stephanie Burton, Vice-Principal of Research and Postgraduate Education, congratulated the fellows at the official gala event and emphasised the importance of the ASLP programme within the Future Africa Institute and assured the fellows that UP is excited about working with such excellent research leaders on the continent.

Prof Bernard Slippers, project leader and director of the Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute (FABI) at UP and a past co-chair of the Global Young Academy said: ‘African science is brimming with potential, but is currently underdeveloped. The ASLP programme recognises the need for quality and collective leadership skills amongst the next generation of scientists who are steering the development and expansion of this system.’

Among the fellows selected for the fourth round of the programme are Drs Johannes Ferreira and Nwabisa Mehlomkulu, lecturers in the Departments of Statistics and of Food Science respectively. Dr Alisa Phulukdaree, a senior lecturer in the Department of Physiology and a Tuks Young Research Leader Programme (TYRLP) 2015 fellow, served as a mentor.  

Other mentors included Dr Samson Khene, ASLP 2017 fellow and lecturer in Physical Chemistry at Rhodes University; Dr Eva Alisic, associate professor and director; Jack Brockhoff from the Child Health and Wellbeing Programme, Australia; and Prof Rees Kassen, professor and incumbent of the University Research Chair in Experimental Evolution, University of Ottawa, Canada. Both Dr Alisic and Prof Kassen are past co-chairs of the Global Young Academy.

The 2018 ASLP fellows met with the 2017 cohort of fellows. Reflecting on the workshop, one of the 2018 fellows said: ‘It was a priceless experience in which I gained transformative knowledge about collective leadership skills. This fantastic, remarkable and unforgettable week at the ASLP taught me what leadership truly entails. I intend to invite others on this leadership journey to uplift Africa.’      

The programme is funded by the Robert Bosch Foundation and involves many collaborations, including collaboration with the Leopold Leadership Program at Stanford University and the specialist facilitation company Knowinnovation. The programme now includes 84 fellows from 61 institutions located in 18 countries across Africa.

Learn more about the ASLP at or Future Africa, University of Pretoria at


- Author Prof Bernard Slippers

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