The Minister of Science and Technology, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, announced the establishment of the OR Tambo Africa Research Chairs on Tuesday, 11 December 2018. The Research Chairs are intended to honour a leading figure in the development of African unity by having a catalytic impact on the development of research infrastructure in recipient countries, and contributing to knowledge production and high-end skills in alignment with the African Union's Agenda 2063 and Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa (STISA-2024).

 

The Minister made the announcement during an event organised by the National Research Foundation, an entity of the Department of Science and Technology, in partnership with the Oliver and Adelaide Tambo Foundation.

 

The event, a panel discussion involving leading Africa academics, was held in honour of the former African National Congress leader and humanitarian, Oliver Reginald Tambo.

 

Mr Tambo traversed the continent in pursuit of justice and equality for all. In recognition of his early career as a mathematics and science teacher, the Research Chairs initiative seeks to foster African excellence in research and innovation by promoting collective growth and development in these fields.

 

Through international and regional strategic partnerships, the Research Chairs will contribute to the development of long-term mutually beneficial research collaborations on the continent.

 

Over the next five years the initiative will see up to 10 top researchers awarded chairs that will focus on undertaking world-class research and training postgraduate students at leading universities in the 15 sub-Saharan African countries that are part of the Science Granting Councils Initiative.

 

The initiative is a collaboration between Canada's International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the National Research Foundation (NRF).

 

This exciting new research and development collaboration builds on Canada and South Africa's experience in supporting joint research chairs, including the South Africa-Canada trilateral research chair programme led by the IDRC and the NRF.

 

The IDRC's President, Jean Lebel, said the organisation was proud to collaborate with South Africa in supporting a pan-African network of research chairs that would contribute to science and prosperity on the continent.

 

"We are especially pleased that the councils taking part in our co-founded Science Granting Councils Initiative will play such a crucial role in managing, implementing and investing in the OR Tambo Research Chairs," he said.

 

Minister Kubayi-Ngubane, who delivered the keynote address on the theme "Championing Research Excellence in Africa", paying tribute to OR Tambo's struggle, which was based, like science, on the pursuit of truth.

 

The Minister said the late Oliver Tambo’s dedication and resolve in the pursuit for freedom made him predictable to his comrades and those who knew him. “Not predictable in a sense that he was boring, predictable in the sense that his commitment to the struggle was consistent, and that he would advance it in on whatever platform that he found himself.”

 

“The pursuit of truth is one of the elements that science and liberation politics share. The development of science is based on the pursuit of truth about objective reality. It is this very pursuit that has helped humanity to master the environment so that we are now able to husband it for our own purposes. It is through the truth discovered through science that technology has come into being,” the Minister added.

 

 

The Minister's address was followed by a panel discussion involving noted African researchers Prof. Francisca Okeke, Prof. Nosipho Moloto, Dr Lindiwe Sibanda and Prof. Linus Opara.

 

Okeke is a professor of physics at the University of Nigeria, Moloto is a lecturer and researcher in chemistry at the University of the Witwatersrand, Opara is an agricultural engineering researcher and distinguished professor at Stellenbosch University, and Sibanda has over 25 years of transdisciplinary experience in rural development, public sector reforms and private sector management.

 

The Department has given its full support to the OR Tambo Africa Research Chairs Initiative and welcomes the fact that 60% of these chairs will be awarded to female researchers, as this is in line with departmental objectives of reducing gender inequality in research.

 

“I am certain that Oliver Tambo would have agreed with the eminent scientist, Freeman Dyson, who wrote in an essay called "The Scientist as Rebel" that "The vision of science is not specifically Western. It is no more Western than it is Arab or Indian or Japanese or Chinese. Arabs and Indians and Japanese and Chinese had a big share in the development of modern science. And two thousand years earlier, the beginnings of ancient science were as much Babylonian and Egyptian as Greek. One of the central facts about science is that it pays no attention to East and West and North and South and black and yellow and white. It belongs to everybody who is willing to make the effort to learn it," the Minister concluded.

 

 

Issued by the Department of Science and Technology and the National Research Foundation.

 

For more information contact Julian Leshilo-Sebake at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 060 961 2194.