WHAT IS FUTURE AFRICA?
Future Africa is the University of Pretoria's new flagship research institute and pan-African platform, which aspires to transform the world through African research excellence.
WHY THE FOCUS ON RESEARCH?
Research is central to the long-term vision of the University of Pretoria (UP), which is a leading research-intensive university in Africa, recognised internationally for quality, relevance and impact, as well as for developing people, creating knowledge, and making a difference locally and globally.
UP recognises that research needs to transcend disciplinary boundaries, build strategic partnerships and networks, and act on the social responsibility of universities. It is for this reason that we established Future Africa, with the intention to be a pan-African science platform for transdisciplinary research and transdisciplinary science leadership for innovation, taking science forward to create a more sustainable and equitable world.
HOW WILL FUTURE AFRICA BENEFIT AFRICAN SCHOLARS AND RESEARCHERS?
As a hub for African scholars, Future Africa will promote excellence by establishing multinational academic and leadership networks and communities, to conduct impactful, future-focused research. Future Africa is based on the premise that such research can and should be led by Africans, for Africa and for the world. In this regard, Future Africa extends an invitation to all sectors of society across the continent to partner with us in unlocking the potential of Africa.
WHAT IS DIFFERENT ABOUT FUTURE AFRICA’S PROPOSITION?
Future Africa is a community for all African scholars as well as an impressive campus, grounded in a vision of and for Africa, and set to shape our future through science. From its innovative infrastructure, to crop-based gardens and practical and aesthetic details – which have brought into synergy builders, artists, architects, botanists and environmentalists – the campus is now one of the jewels in UP’s crown.
Future Africa has already brought about new possibilities for translating science into practice and impact. The University’s strategic research priorities, and the research themes that capture Future Africa’s vision of sustainability and equity, are at an advanced stage of development. Future Africa’s programmes focusing on the development of young science leaders are also well-established.
WHAT GAP WILL FUTURE AFRICA BRIDGE WITHIN THE SCIENCE LEADERSHIP FRAMEWORK?
The basic premise of Future Africa's leadership programmes is that the quality of the leadership in the system to lead change is closely linked to the development of science capacity in Africa. We recognise that next-generation researchers are often unprepared for the complexities that an interconnected, interdisciplinary approach to science brings. In addition, Future Africa programmes are built on the understanding that there are significant obstacles to the integration of knowledge, and that this integration requires engagement across and beyond scientific boundaries.
Three programmes are aimed at a new leadership in the sciences:
• the African Science Leadership Programme (ASLP), whose fifth group of young researchers from across Africa are starting their programme in March 2019;
• the Tuks Young Research Leadership Programme (TYRLP), a capacity development programme aimed at UP’s young researchers, now in its fourth year; and
• the newly established Early Career Research Leader Fellowship Programme (ECRLF), aimed at early career researchers and their supervisors, which offered its first workshop in February 2019.
Prof Bernard Slippers and Prof Stephanie Burton
WHAT MAKES FUTURE AFRICA THE KEY CRITICAL LINK, GIVEN THE CURRENT ISSUES FACING RESEARCHERS?
Future Africa brings recognition to the increasingly global and interconnected nature of research, as well as the trend towards inter- and transdisciplinary research practices. These changes are driven by two pivotal shifts in science: the realisation within the broad science (and science policy) community that the challenges facing humanity are of a global nature and cannot be solved at local or individual levels, and related to this, that the complexity of the problem necessitates disciplinary interconnectedness that draws on a network of expertise, often from outside institutional and national boundaries.
Addressing these changes requires new science leadership and new transdisciplinary methods of doing science. The key to accessing new networks of knowledge and expertise, and making them available to all African scholars, is having an inviting and conducive local environment – which Future Africa certainly does – and that science leaders can give these connections local and continental grounding.
TEN YEARS FROM NOW, WHAT WILL BE THE LEGACY OF FUTURE AFRICA?
Future Africa aspires to scholarship of the highest quality, which will contribute to global knowledge creation in the continuum of basic and applied sciences, recognising both the roles of talented individuals and the importance of an interconnected, team-based approach, creating new opportunities to link the best in Africa with the best around the world.
It will create an environment which recognises that achieving excellence is a dynamic process, and it will nurture the development of thought leaders – not only as specialists in trained fields, but as leaders of integrative approaches to solving problems at institute, community, national and international levels, and creating awareness of the value of diversity.
Future Africa is a community, a hub, a home for scholars and a physical meeting place. It provides a physical and intellectual environment that allows transformation-minded science leaders with a sense of social responsibility in Africa and the world, to advance transdisciplinary research and bring about transformative change, taking science forward to create a more sustainable and equitable world.
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