UP hosts fourth South African-Japanese Conference

Posted on June 10, 2019

The University of Pretoria (UP) recently hosted the fourth South African-Japanese Conference at UP’s Future Africa campus, in association with Universities of South Africa and other stakeholders.

The theme of the two-day event – which Japan’s ambassador designated to South Africa, Norio Maruyama, attended – was The Human Being in the 21st Century in the Context of Global Challenges. More than 300 delegates from South African and Japanese universities discussed and explored new research collaborations while strengthening existing relationships. Also discussed were opportunities for student and staff mobility between the two countries.

“This forum allows us to network and interact as researchers, academics, policymakers, and as business and industry leaders, and to reflect on our joint work and potential avenues and mechanisms for further collaborative research, strategic alliances and partnerships,” said Professor Tawana Kupe, UP Vice-Chancellor and Principal, during his welcome speech. “‘Internationalisation’ and ‘international collaboration’ are not empty words or phrases: across the globe, we are searching for new ideas, new knowledge, new methodologies and new paradigms in order to resolve the pressing issues of our times.

“We do this by increasingly moving out of silos, whether disciplinary, institutionally or as national entities,” Prof Kupe added. “Crossing disciplinary boundaries to find solutions to common problems is what the 21st century demands of us. A forum such as this provides an opportunity for scientists, researchers, academics and business and industry leaders to be creators of knowledge – rather than simply consumers of received wisdom – and to use this knowledge to confront and resolve what has been called the wicked problems of our continent and of the world.”

The Japanese government counts education among the top priority areas of partnership with South Africa, and considers its contributions to SA as part of broader sustainable development and “human resource development” in Africa.

In his address, Prof Jun Matsukuma, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, said the Japanese government is proud to be celebrating its relationship with South Africa and is looking forward to many years of collaboration. “With South Africa being the only African country in the G20, it is exciting for us to partner with them,” he said. “I am also pleased that South Africa is moving with the times – the Fourth Industrial Revolution is here, and technology plays a vital role in solving some of the challenges and problems we are faced with.”

On the second day of the conference, Prof Nicola Kleyn, Dean of the Gordon Institute of Business Science, facilitated a panel discussion on industrial and manufacturing businesses in South Africa and Japan.

“It is very clear that the challenges of industrialisation going forward are distinct from the challenges of industrialisation of the past half century,” said conference attendee Prof Justin Barnes, executive director of the Toyota Wessels Institute for Manufacturing Studies. “We need to industrialise in order to create a much larger productive sector to employ people and deal with poverty head on. Our biggest challenge is embracing innovative technologies.”


- Author Xolani Mathibela

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