Change the world


Reasons to be Proud #R2bP - The research chair for Human Settlements at Nelson Mandela University, Professor Sijekula Mbanga, was honoured with an international award from the United States-based National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (NAHRO) for his outstanding contribution to the international understanding and exchange of global experience in the housing and community development field.


Chair for Human Settlements at Nelson Mandela University accepting the International Research and Global Exchange (IRGE) Award during a NAHRO conference and exhibition in New Orleans earlier this month.

Prof Mbanga, who has held the Chair since 2015, was awarded the International Research and Global Exchange (IRGE) Award during a NAHRO conference and exhibition in New Orleans earlier this month, in recognition of his contributions to policy development, inclusive human settlements and sustainable housing in South Africa and beyond.

The IRGE award was introduced at NAHRO in 1983, when Prof Mbanga was just doing Grade 9 at Tsomo Junior Secondary School and possibly unclear as to his career aspirations, never dreaming that he would one receive such global recognition.

“I did not expect this level of recognition in the work I do, as I devote much of my professional and personal time to contribute to efforts that are aimed at bringing about change in our immediate, national and global living environments,” said Prof Mbanga.

“In my professional and community development activism training I was never groomed into thinking about the ‘self’ relative to desired development outcomes. I was schooled into the ‘thinking in community.’ It humbles one to realise that ones’ steps are being watched and, at most, appreciated.”

Prof Mbanga was nominated by a long-standing member of the IRGE committee following consultation with others who had been exposed to Prof Mbanga’s work as Human Settlements Chair at Mandela University. Thereafter, NAHRO sifted through the evidence of his work as it relates to multiple projects and initiatives in human settlements development in South Africa and abroad.

Prof Mbanga was recognised for, among others, his continuing and consistent participation in the IRGE Forum housing policy and research dialogue since joining NAHRO in 2015. He hosted NAHRO member organisations and delegates of US-based University of Maryland at Mandela University during their Four-City tour of South Africa (Cape Town, Johannesburg, Gqeberha and Durban) in July 2019. This included coordinating a tour of the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropole and housing authorities in Gqeberha.

The Chair launched an online Affordable Housing and Real Estate Global Classroom in 2021, against the backdrop of COVID-19, in partnership with the University of Maryland’s School of Architecture Planning and Preservation.

The Global Classroom took place in the second or Fall semester each year, and involved lecture presentations by academics at Mandela University and the University of Maryland, with undergraduate and postgraduate students participating and sharing knowledge to their student counterparts.

Since then, other universities in the USA and South Arica have  joined the Global Classroom, encouraging their students to participate in order to enhance teaching and learning.

The Chair was also instrumental in the establishment of a US-Africa Collaborative Incorporation on Affordable Housing, which is non-profit organisation, in whose Board of Governors Prof Mbanga served.

This incorporation was aimed at facilitating knowledge exchange across the African diaspora. It included housing practitioners and academics from Africa and the USA, and hosted a Pan-African City Symposium in June 2022, as a hybrid event, from the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

The second Pan-African City Symposium will be held in June 2024 and hosted by Bowie State University, Maryland, USA. Prof Mbanga will be chairing the symposium’s Scientific Committee.

On this recognition, Prof Mbanga humbly said: “On a personal level, I realise that the little effort that I put in the scholarship and praxis of affordable housing and human settlements has the potential to trigger much wider societal impacts that will bring about change in the world. As Madiba once asserted, doing little with what you have wherever you are matters and, I add, more than lofty ideals and grand strategies that never get tested in practice.   Societal change starts with me.”

“On the professional front, this award signals a call for more and quite decisive action, the application of capabilities and skills that professionals accumulate to influence long-lasting change in living environments for the benefit of those who have no choice of where to live and who to live with, what to build and what to build with.

"Society has entrusted to us, professionals, a responsibility to bring about change in the quality of life of the people in South Africa, Africa, the Global South and rest of the world.  Our research, teaching and learning and engagement efforts cannot be for their own sake but must be felt across nations. For me, that will be a life well lived by a professional and an academic who espouses the ideals of Nelson Mandela.” 

Contact information
Ms Zandile Mbabela
Media Manager
Tel: 0415042777