It is most fitting that a conference seeking to deepen research collaboration between South African and Japanese universities is taking place at the Future Africa campus, Prof Tawana Kupe, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Pretoria (UP) said in Hatfield earlier this week.
He was addressing the 4th South Africa-Japan (SAJU) University Forum Conference set to take place at UP’s Future Africa campus on 23 and 24 May. The conference is an academic and abstract-driven event that offered researchers from South Africa and Japan an opportunity to share existing research collaboration, research interests, achievements and perspectives, and an opportunity to discuss possibilities for future collaborations. The theme was “The human being in the 21st century in the context of global changes”.
Welcoming the 100-strong contingent of Japanese academics who attended alongside their South African counterparts, Prof Kupe said UP’s new Future Africa campus is “the place where Africa’s leading scientists and those from across the globe assembled to seek evidence-based solutions to the challenges confronting the continent, its people and the world”.
Citing examples of food security, poverty and inequality, climate change and technological advancement, among others, Prof Kupe said he strongly believes the future of research lies in collaboration and partnerships. That is why it was appropriate that a forum bringing researchers, policymakers and scholars together to ponder research collaborations was taking place on UP’s Future Africa grounds.
The Vice-Chancellor said he believes this conference will yield “concrete outcomes that mutually enable Japan and SA to advance the academic project, the knowledge domain and further strengthen the relations between our respective countries.” He expressed confidence that SAJU 2019 will generate outcomes that will impact and influence the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD 7), coming up in August 2019.
“Enjoy South African hospitality,” Prof Kupe said to the visiting scholars.
Minister-Counsellor Mr Shuichiro Kawaguchi, of Japan’s Embassy in South Africa, said never before had he witnessed so many Japanese professors on one joint visit to South Africa. “SAJU 2019 marks the happiest time in my diplomatic career,” Mr Kawaguchi said, beaming. Acknowledging the 16 Japanese companies with investments in South Africa, the diplomat said while South Africa-Japan bilateral relations need to transcend trade relations to also increase cultural exchanges, “academic collaborations in fact complete the relationship.”
The Minister-Counsellor said he was most gratified that men and women from his country were getting to witness and enjoy South Africa’s impressive infrastructure, and its people. “May the cultural exchanges we’re already enjoying, and the partnership that we’ve built in, for instance, Applied Mathematics, go on to enrich scholar-to-scholar relationships.”
Universities South Africa Chief Executive Officer Prof Ahmed Bawa reiterated that South Africa could not solve “intensely local yet intensely global” problems like climate change on its own. It was therefore important that this conference got off on an academic footing to consolidate solidarity but, even more importantly, to encourage and grow the mobility of South Africa’s young undergraduate scholars. This is so that they solidly “grow their knowledge of our joint societies”. He said the SAJU Forum should aim to address issues pertinent to not just South Africa and Japan, but also to Africa and the whole of Asia.
Prof Bawa said he wished to see SAJU 2019 culminate in a clearly defined programme of action that would propel this relationship forward like never before.