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01/12/2015: Creating capacity and funding to allow university and government collaboration will help meet 2063 vision
01 December 2015
A systematised leadership structure linking local government and university institutions needs to be established in order to realise the critical role academia and researchers play in helping Africa’s local governments realise the Africa 2063 vision.

Professor Philip Harrison, South African Research Chair in Development Planning and Modelling at the University of the Witwatersrand, speaking at the 7th Edition of the Africities Summit being held in Johannesburg this week said:
“In order to achieve this end successfully, we need dedicated capacity in terms of both financial and human resources.”

Only 0.7% of university funding is contributed to research and development in South Africa. This needs to increase, particularly in the area of innovation, in order to realise the benefits this critical function can play in society and to achieve the vision and implementing the planning required forf Africa.

Prof. Harrison, having had experience of trying to dedicate himself to both government and a university, described the process of meeting the demands of meeting university life and consulting with government as challenging and unsustainable.

He says, that whilst co-production is critical in making this work, both local government and universities are large institutions with very different modes and mandates of operation. Being a member of one and upholding your obligations to your institution is in itself a challenge.

“Failure to offer incentives to facilitate engagement between these institutes’ results in the objective being marginalised whilst focus is turned to their individual silos of operation,” explains Prof Harrison.
He believes dedicating resources to this engagement from both institutions is necessary if the synergy is to be meaningful. “That means additional jobs…”

One of the reasons the Thabo Mbeki African leadership institute was established was to identify the role of academics and their contribution to the goals of 2063 as a means of overcoming the challenges of unemployment, poverty and lack of access to education currently facing African nations.

There are many stakeholders who work to create policy and a lack of research makes it difficult to make informed decisions. Academic knowledge therefore can play a vital role to inform or influence policy making in a meaningful and measurable way.

Some positive examples of how collaboration between government and academics can work successfully include three examples from Johannesburg:
1. Braamfontein digitial hub – COJ purchased buildings and technology infrastructure to develop SA’s leading digital hub for programmers, designers, developers and entrepreneurs who will congregate in a ‘half city block’ along Juta Street between Station and Henri Streets. This is fruition of the dream of Prof Barry Dwolatzky, who heads up the JCSE at Wits University.

2. Hillbrow health precinct –Since its inception in the 1990’s as a means to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic, it has been changing the perception of Hillbrow and its reality.

It is an internationally recognised focal point for innovation in research and training in the field of health care and community development. Together with the University of the Witwatersrand’s Campus Development and Planning Department, an Urban Design Precinct Plan dealing with the northern area has been generated.

This will ensure that coherent and integrated development takes place within the precinct relating to movement, signage, safety, street furniture, landscaping and way-finding.

These projects show that it can be done. Prof Harrison says if we are to realise the visions of the 2063 agenda, we need these networks of learning and practices to transcend public and private divides as a means to serve public interest.
If we are truly committed to making this happen, the critical role research and academia can play must be given the opportunity through funding and the creation for capacity.

Media Contacts:

City of Johannesburg
Name: Nthatisi Modingoane
Designation: Spokesperson, City of Johannesburg
Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Cell: 082 467 9228

Name: Phindile Chauke
Designation: Mayoral Communications, Private Office of the Executive Mayor
Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Cell: 072 360 1533

Africities
Name: Ziyanda Mtshali
Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Cell: 078 143 0553

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Last Updated on 01 December 2015