The University of Pretoria (UP) is proud to announce the appointment of Professor Lindiwe Majele Sibanda as Director of the African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) Centre of Excellence in Food Security, hosted at UP in collaboration with the University of Nairobi, Kenya, and the University of Ghana, Legon. Prof Sibanda will be supported by two co-directors at UP – Professors Hettie Schönfeldt and Frans Swanepoel.
ARUA-related activities are an extraordinarily strategic priority for UP as a vehicle for African impact and global recognition. ARUA was inaugurated in Dakar, Senegal, in 2015, bringing together 16 of the continent’s leading research universities – including UP. The ARUA network is intended to be different from any other regional university network. It seeks to enhance the quality of research in Africa conducted by Africans by bringing together peer African institutions who are willing to collaborate by pooling resources to generate a critical mass that can effectively support their growing numbers of researchers. ARUA is built on the premise that partnerships and networking have become essential arrangements for universities throughout the world to leverage their resources for greater impact and influence.
This flagship project at UP, the ARUA Centre of Excellence (ACoE) in Food Security, is a mechanism through which the institution seeks to leverage the strategic potential of the ARUA network, as well as contribute significantly to social, economic and environmental development in Africa. The ACoE was awarded in early 2018 and officially launched in December 2018. The ACoE’s vision is to “harness partnerships in research and innovation that drive agricultural and food system transformation to ensure sustainable food security and nutrition in Africa”. Conceptualised as a truly interdisciplinary entity, four focus areas of activity related to crops, livestock, nutritious food and evidence-informed policy help bring the Centre’s vision to fruition. The ACoE is positioned as a University-wide, cross-faculty institutional entity reporting to the Vice-Principal: Research and Postgraduate Education.
The ACoE presents the University with substantial opportunities for research and funding partnerships. Under the auspices of the ARUA partnership with UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), UP has already attracted two major, high-profile research and capacity-building grants linked to the ACoE: the Food Systems Research Network for Africa (FSNet-Africa) which is led by Prof Swanepoel, and the Capacity Building in Food Security for Africa (CaBFoodS-Africa) which is led by Prof Schönfeldt. As part of FSNet-Africa, a very prominent partnership with the University of Leeds (UK) has been established. The ACoE will further enable several other opportunities for partnerships with leading global institutions, including opportunities with Wageningen University and Research (WUR) (The Netherlands), Cornell University (United States) and the Agrifood 5 Alliance (a collaboration among the top five agri-food universities in the world).
Prof Sibanda’s extensive experience working in Africa and her global stature as a thought leader position her as the ideal candidate to lead this strategic initiative at UP. She has served as CEO of FANRPAN and vice-president of AGRA for more than 15 years. Prior to her appointment as ACoE director she was a research fellow at the Centre for the Advancement of Scholarship at UP. She serves as the co-chair of the Global Alliance for Climate Smart Agriculture (GACSA), is a member of the SDG Target by 2030 Champions on Reducing Food Loss and Waste and a commissioner for the EAT-Lancet Commission on Sustainable Healthy Food Systems. In July 2020, the Food Planet Prize appointed her as a member of its jury which will name two prizes of $2 million later this year. She works closely with WUR to prepare the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) 2021 report to inform the United Nations 2021 Food Systems Summit.
The UP-based leadership team forms part of the larger ACoE management committee, representing all three partner institutions. Under Prof Sibanda’s leadership, immediate priorities for the ACoE include the development of a five-year strategy and operational plan in collaboration with the Centre’s partners and to prepare for the upcoming ARUA-led review of its centres of excellence.