Home » RISA Directorates » IRC » International Relations and Cooperation

About IRC

The NRF Vision 2015 acknowledges the importance of internationalising the science and technology environment in achieving the national social and economic development imperatives of South Africa and has thus strategically positioned internationalization as a cross-cutting agenda. Within this ambit, the International Relations and Cooperation (IRC) Directorate plays a contributing role in the promotion of research excellence, with regards to the internationalisation of research and higher education, and in particular to the concerted focus on Africa within the NRF. Through the synergies of its core initiatives and strategic projects, IRC strives to make a significant contribution to human capacity development in the national system of innovation, particularly relating to issue of redressing inequality. The mission of IRC within the NRF is multidimensional and cross-cutting, viz.

  • To contribute pro-actively to the internationalisation of science and of higher education,

  • To facilitate the generation and transfer of knowledge and technology to achieve international competitiveness for South Africa,

  • To enhance international science collaboration (networking), especially amongst emergent and developing economies,

  • To promote and support continental/regional scientific collaboration in order to contribute to socio-economic and sustainable growth on the African continent,

  • To contribute to an enabling process of accessing international (research support) opportunities throughout the NRF, in particular the National Research Facilities,

  • To contribute to the imperatives of redress and equity within the national science system and, thereby,

  • To promote and support strategic human resource development as a contribution to the national system of innovation.

Working closely with the Department of Science and Technology (DST), IRC assumes a proactive responsibility to facilitate and enhance international scientific collaboration between individual scientists, higher education institutions, research bodies and scientific and professional associations (unions) in South Africa and abroad. Click here to see an Organogram

IRC (as a directorate of RISA) derives its mandate from the National Research Foundation Act, No 23 of 1998. IRC contributes to the achievement of the NRF’s strategic goals and vision by sourcing funds for research (locally and abroad); facilitating and promoting international liaison between researchers and research institutions; promoting participation in international scientific activities through maintaining membership of appropriate international science organisations; and initiating liaison with structures involved in the protection of intellectual property rights.

At present, the IRC through the DST has signed more than 40 bilateral and multilateral agreements globally. Click HERE  to view map showing NRF country partnerships.

IRC Units

There are three broad focus areas/ units within IRC, namely: the Overseas Collaboration (OC); the Africa Cooperation (AC); and the Multilateral and Strategic Initiatives (MSI). 

AFRICA COOPERATION - In line with the NRF’s mission to prioritise Africa, AC promotes and supports continental and regional scientific collaboration in order to contribute to socio-economic and sustainable growth on the African continent. A strong emphasis is placed on human capacity and skills development as the driver for promoting international competiveness through knowledge transfer. Funding from grants awarded through the AC enable South African Researchers to interact with the science community on the African continent and the rest of the globe. Click here to read more

OVERSEAS COOPERATION - The OC unit is tasked with promoting South Africa’s science and technology links on the global front. Working closely with the Department of Science and Technology (DST), OC participates in the implementation of the Intergovernmental and Inter-agency Bilateral  agreements by funding  joint research projects and in the process ensure capacity building in key strategic areas. In addition OC serves as liaison between the South African and international scientific communities, and facilitates South African participation in global scientific and research engagements. Click here to read more

MULTILATERAL AND STRATEGIC INITIATIVES - The MSI unit has been recently created to provide additional support and strategic direction for the development and enhancement of internationalisation at the NRF, as driven by the IRC Directorate. MSI also manages the Secretariat for the International Council for Science (ICSU) and mobility initiatives, most prominently the . In addition, the unit is responsible for the NRF’s adhering function as a National Member Organisation of the International Institute for Applied System Analysis (IIASA), based in Austria, and other strategic capacity development interventions like the Southern African Systems Analysis Centre (SASAC) and the Global Research Council

Funding Instruments/Framework

As a Directorate, the IRC focuses on four core modalities in order to achieve its mandate within RISA, namely bilateral and multilateral agreements, regional cooperation, strategic agreements and enabling mobility across borders. 

BILATERAL AND MULTILATERAL AGREEMENTS focus on building and strengthening partnerships through cooperation with international partners. In partnership with DST, OC participates in the implementation of the intergovernmental and interagency agreements by funding joint research projects and in the process ensures capacity building in key strategic areas.

REGIONAL COOPERATION facilitated primarily through the activities of the three units of the IRC with the main aim of promoting and supporting continental, regional and global scientific collaboration in order to contribute to socio-economic and sustainable growth of South Africa and the rest of the continent. In this regard, multilateralism as a way of increasing the country’s science and technology research and development agenda through human capacity and skills development as the driver for promoting international competiveness through knowledge transfer is emphasised.

STRATEGIC ENGAGEMENTS focus on funding mechanisms for innovative, contemporary and targeted initiatives. New investment horizons, active partners and cross-cutting initiatives form part of this funding framework. Instruments under this framework include:

  • UK Newton Fund – A UK/South Africa initiative aimed at improving the research and innovation capacity of emerging nations. Click HERE  for more information on the Newton Fund

  • International Council for Science (ICSU) – Click here more information on ICSU South Africa

  • Southern African Systems Analysis Centre (SASAC) - An innovative initiative that contributes to the establishment, growth and enhancement of high level strategic research networks internationally. Click HERE  for more information on SASAC.

  • TWAS/NRF agreement for Mobility of Students from Africa - A five-year agreement on human capital development, supported by the DST. Up to 240 bursaries for postgraduate students will be provided to study and conduct research in South Africa.

  • Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JINR) - The JINR is an independent, multinational research agency located in Dubna, Russian Federation. The JINR conducts both theoretical and practical research, mainly in the fields of elementary particle physics, nuclear physics and condensed matter physics. Click here  for more information on the JINR.

  • Strengthening the Capacities of Science Granting Councils in Sub-Saharan Africa - A 5-year investment for institutional strengthening and quality improvement of granting and research support. The programme will be supported by NRF, IDRC and DFID.

MOBILITY is enabled through the activities of the KIC and the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JINR) and ICSU which focus on the internationalization of South Africa’s research platform, the enhancement of networking in the global science system and the nurturing of collaboration to improve the quality of research outputs by researchers.  The KIC funding instrument is South Africa’s largest mobility programme, supporting South Africa-based researchers to increase and expand their international networks. Specific engagements with Africa have been supported since 2013, with a concomitant increase in quality applications under the Africa bilateral framework as a consequence. Annually, more than 400 applications are supported, of which approximately 40% are focussed on Africa.


Mr Michael Nxumalo
Director: AC
Phone: +27 12 481 4011
E-mail: michael@nrf.ac.za

Ms Busiswa Molefe
Professional Officer: AC
Phone: +27 12 481 4028

Ms Puleng Tshitlho
Professional Officer: AC
Phone: +27 12 481 4061
E-mail: puleng.tshitlho@nrf.ac.za

Kholofelo Mampeule
Liaison Officer: AC
Phone: +27 12  481 4298
E-Mail: malose.ledwaba@nrf.ac.za

Dorothy Ngila
Project Specialist: MSI
Phone: +27 12 481 4143
Email: : dorothy.ngila@nrf.ac.za

Ms Prudence Makhura
Director: OC
Phone: +27 12 481 4077
E-Mail: prudence.makhura@nrf.ac.za

Mr Teuns Phahlamohlaka
Professional Officer: OC
Phone: +27 12 481 4385
E-mail: teuns.phahlamohlaka@nrf.ac.za

Ms Nombuso Madonda

Professional Officer: OC
Phone +27 481 4285
E-mail: nombuso.madonda@nrf.ac.za

Ms Tshegofatso Thoka
Office Administrator
Phone: +27 12 481 4172
E-mail: Tshegofatso.thoka@nrf.ac.za

Dr Sepo Hachigonta
Director: MSI
Phone: +27 12 481 4180
E-mail:  sepo.hachigonta@nrf.ac.za

Ms Motsakwe Rakgoale
Professional Officer: MSI
Phone: +27 12 481 4291
E-mail: motsakwe@nrf.ac.za

Ms Promise Shabangu
Liaison Officer: MSI
Phone: +27 12 481 4386
E-mail: promise.shabangu@nrf.ac.za

Ms Lynn Ngwenya
Professional Officer: SA ICSU Secretariat
Phone: +27 12 481 4042
E-mail: lynn.ngwenya@nrf.ac.za