Change the world


All of our lives are increasingly impacted by global sustainability challenges. We are living in a historical time in which the world labours under multiple pandemics, including leadership crises, poverty, inequality, hunger, environmental degradation, racism and other forms of discrimination

Not least of these is the widespread pathologizing of all that is Africa and African.

All over the world, the cost of pollution and the benefits of environmental sustainability are increasingly recognised as a global megatrend. Climate change is resulting in natural disasters becoming more frequent - impacting on economies, demographics, crop production, food security, migration, and political landscapes. Climate change projections for the SADC (Southern African Develop Community) region show that the greatest impacts will mostly be felt through water resources.

Humanity faces a future of resource scarcity with the demand for global water, energy and food projected to increase exponentially by 2030. Water, energy and food are vital resources for human well-being, poverty reduction, and sustainable development. These three resources are strongly linked and any impact on one, affects the other two.

Generating cutting-edge knowledge for a sustainable future

In the light of this scenario, the Nelson Mandela University’s Faculty of Science seized the window of opportunity to define what matters and shape the future of science, technology and innovation. This is in line with the University’s Vision 2030 of being a dynamic, African university recognised for its leadership in generating cutting-edge knowledge for a sustainable future. The vision is underpinned by one of our key strategic enablers – Sustainability and responsible resource stewardship – and one of our foundational values – Sustainable stewardship.

Based on our namesake, Nelson Mandela’s legacy, our primary focus is on being in service of society by contributing to the co-creation of a more sustainable and just world.

The 21st century African Faculty of Science serving society

The Faculty of Science is boldly taking the University into the future to be of service to society. The Faculty’s vision of being a world-class engaged and transdisciplinary African Faculty of Science that responds to socio-economic and environmental challenges in society, is the driving force behind this statement.  

Sustainable development is embedded in our core ideology. One of our key strategic priorities and goals is to promote and protect basic sciences. Our George campus is leading sustainability sciences through various programmes. Its Sustainability Research Unit (SRU) is the first dedicated interdisciplinary research group focusing on the sustainability of complex social ecological systems in the Garden Route, Western Cape of South Africa. It is the home to a community of critical thinkers who recognise the need to cross the boundaries of the social and ecological disciplines to promote sustainable management of social ecological systems. The work undertaken by the SRU develops the capacity of students and community stakeholders for the sustainable management of ecological, social and economic systems through user-inspired research, training, policy-related work and stakeholder engagement.

Celebrating the role of basic sciences

We are continuously celebrating, through past and future events, the role of fundamental sciences in contributing to the sustainability of communities across the world. We recently hosted the Drugs of Africa webinar and we also hosted the 66th annual conference of the South African Institute of Physics (SAIP) for the second time in seven years.  At this conference we commemorated three main events – the International Year of Basic Sciences for Sustainable Development (IYBSSD 2022), the 100th anniversary of the International Union of Pure and Applied Science (IUPAP), to which South Africa is a founding member, and the 10th anniversary of the discovery of the Higgs boson - the elementary particle eponymous to Peter Higgs, Emeritus Professor at the University of Edinburgh.

The global launch of IYBSSD 2022

The Faculty of Science proudly presented our innovations at the opening ceremony and global launch of IYBSSD 2022 in early July. The event highlighted the crucial role of basic sciences for sustainable development and the achievement of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). There was a strong focus on the importance of evidence-informed decision-making on urgent global challenges and the vital role basic sciences play in policy decision-making.  It was in this context that the Faculty demonstrated how basic science is applied in sound decision-making.

IYBSSD 2022 was proclaimed by the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly on 2 December 2021 for 2022. It aims to emphasise the essence of basic sciences in addressing the needs of humankind. It provides access to information, increases societal well-being, and promotes peace through improved collaboration toward the SDGs.

Activities in support of IYBSSD 2022

The Faculty of Science will be presenting a range of activities in support of the IYBSSD 2022. The National Science Week in August will offer a comprehensive programme of public lectures, outreaches, webinars, demonstrations, lab tours, talks and science presentations at various locations in Port Elizabeth (Gqeberha) and Graaff-Reinet.  Our IYBSSD 2022 Working Group will oversee numerous activities until June 2023, which will be registered on the UNESCO website, together with other global initiatives. We will also host the African School of Fundamental Physics and Applications (ASP 2022) at the end of the year and the African Conference on Physics and Applications (ACP 2023).

Top ranking is our testament

Sustainability is engraved in the core ideology and strategy of our Faculty, and our institution at large. The University’s recent stellar performance in the 2022 Times Higher Education Impact Rankings is a testament to the institution’s commitment to addressing the sustainability challenges faced by the world and South Africa in particular. Our Faculty is proud to have played a major role in this achievement.

As a Faculty, our 15 departments are making significant contributions to achieving the SDGs such as quality Education, Innovation, Good Health, Clean Energy, Clean Water, Life on Land, and Life Below Water. As an example, on Education, the Faculty of Science has established a Science Education Forum to address challenges of quality education from foundation phase up to postgraduate training. Our local outreach activities are building capacity in rural areas, while our involvement in the ASP programme is making contributions to the science education of the continent.

Join us in our quest as we discover, educate and engage to change the world.

Written by Professor Azwinndini Muronga, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Science, Nelson Mandela University.

Contact information
Ms Zandile Mbabela
Media Manager
Tel: 0415042777