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Change the world


Delegations of Russian, Brazilian and Chinese Ministerial officials recently visited Nelson Mandela University as part of the Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) Ministers’ meeting in Gqeberha. 

The University and the delegations discussed areas of mutual research cooperation and possible staff and student exchanges. Representatives from South Africa’s Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) also attended the various meetings.

Mandela University Vice-Chancellor Professor Sibongile Muthwa, who is also the South African universities’ representative for the BRICS countries, welcomed the delegations. Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research, Innovation, and Internationalisation, Dr Thandi Mgwebi, introduced the University to the BRICS partners. A lively marimba band gave the visitors a taste of Africa’s music.


From left, South Africa's DSI Deputy Director General of Socio-Economic Innovation Partnerships, Dr Mmboneni MuofheRussian Minister of Science and Higher Education, Dr Valery Falkov, Mandela University Vice-Chancellor Professor Sibongile Muthwa, and Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Innovation and Internationalisation, Dr Thandi Mgwebi. Right, Mandela University and Russian delegation role players.   

Prof Muthwa welcomed the delegation and mentioned valuable partnerships with the University of Petersburg and the joint interest in science and sustainable development.

The Russian Minister of Science and Higher Education, Dr Valery Falkov, referred to Nelson Mandela as a Nobel Prize winner for human rights, and his belief in the importance of education for economic growth.

He also remarked on Mandela University, as a young university, and congratulated it on its fast development of research. He mentioned Oriental African studies and also delving into the diversity of African languages and traditions, mentioning Moscow State University and St Petersburg University.

Another mutual research interest is that of Ocean Sciences, as Russia is surrounded by 13 seas. The green agenda, economy and carbon emissions are also focus areas, as well as climate change and human activity’s influence on nature. Dr Falkov encouraged Mandela University to join the Russian consortium of 50 universities for academic mobility.

Prof Jan Neethling of Mandela University’s Centre for High Resolution Transmission Electron Microscopy shared their history with Russia and the Joint Institute of Nuclear Research in Dubna, Russia. Together they have produced 55 journal articles working on the analysis of steel samples, among others. They are also looking forward to hydrogen production and nuclear energy research.


From left, Brazilian Vice-Minister of Science and Technology for Social Development, Mr Inácio Arruda, Professor Muthwa, DSI Director Multilateral Cooperation Mr Cecil Masoka, Dr Mgwebi and members of the Brazilian delegation. Right, Mandela University and Brazilian delegation role players.   

Professor Muthwa mentioned the importance of social justice and service to society for Mandela University and the inequality in society that South Africa and Brazil share. So far, Forestry, Engineering, Architecture, and Business and Economic Sciences, have ongoing interactions with Brazilian institutions.

Brazilian Vice-Minister of Science and Technology for Social Development, Mr Inácio Arruda, mentioned the integration of Portuguese speaking countries in Africa in research on health, energy, and science support, with the main objective of solving problems.

Prof Darelle van Greunen of the University’s Centre for Community Technologies shared their work on technology interventions in health care and similar diseases in South Africa and Brazil, for example, tuberculosis.

The Centre has developed more than 40 apps, of which three have won international awards. Collaboration with Brazil and India in the African context is a focus area with artificial intelligence into health care the next step, she said.


From left, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Engagement and Transformation Professor Andre Keet, Chinese Minister of Science and Technology Mr Wang Zhigang and Dr Mgwebi. Right, Mandela University and Chinese delegation role players.   

The Chinese delegation of 10 officials, led by Chinese Minister of Science and Technology Mr Wang Zhigang, visited the University’s Ocean Science Campus. Dr Mgwebi welcomed the delegation and Professor Andre Keet, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Engagement and Transformation led the programme.

Dr Priscilla Mensah, acting senior director in the Office of International Education, shared a snapshot of the new Mandela Institute for Sustainable Futures, its Marine Robotics Centre, eNtsa and the drive to revitalise the humanities.

In response, Mr Zhigang said scientific research had provided the technology to address many global challenges. He quoted Chinese President Xi Jinping as saying, “China's door to the outside world will never be closed”.

“Our science and technology will be open for the world, one country at a time,” said Mr Zhigang, adding that it was important to cooperate with the rest of the world with considered input and a broad vision.

The Minister highlighted UN Sustainable Development Goal 13: limit and adapt to climate change. 

“Marine research is a very important aspect in addressing climate change,” said Mr Zhigang.

The Chinese visit accentuated the fact that Ocean Sciences research is a key priority for Nelson Mandela University. Ocean and coastal sciences is one of six research themes and played its part in addressing Africa’s vulnerability to climate change.

Dr Nomtha Hadi, acting director of the Institute for Coastal and Marine Research, sketched how the University contributed to this in her presentation on the work of the Centre for Coastal and Marine Research.  

Prof Patrick Vrancken, incumbent of the University’s South African Research Chair in the Law of the Sea and Development in Africa, discussed the work of the Chair in contributing to a sustainable framework for maritime law. “Our maritime zones are the biggest on the continent,” he said.

Visiting professor Prof Nikki James, a senior aquatic biologist with the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB), outlined the scope of its work conducted with 105 organisations across 24 countries.

South Africa's Environmental Observation Network (SAEON) Elwandle Coastal Node managing director and Manager of the Shallow Marine and Coastal Research Infrastructure, Dr Tommy Bornman, highlighted the far-ranging work of SAEON, not only within South African waters but further afield.

“We collaborate very closely with the Chinese Ecosystem Research Network,” Dr Bornman said of SAEON’s multiple partnerships spanning the globe. Since its inception in 2008, SAEON has accumulated more than 34 million observations.

There were more international synergies ahead, said Dr Mgwebi, referring to the upcoming visit by the President of the Ocean University of China to Nelson Mandela University in October 2023.

Contact information
Ms Elma de Koker
Internal Communication Practitioner
Tel: 041-504 2160