IIASA's 50th Anniversary: Developing the Next Generation of Systems Analysts

IIASA’s 50th Anniversary: Developing the Next Generation of Systems Analysts

As part of the 50th Anniversary celebrations of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), a symposium was hosted on 16 August 2022 to reflect and deliberate on past and future systems programmes on the continent. The symposium was attended by partners who have played a prominent role in driving systems analysis programmes in the region, including the National Research Foundation (NRF), the UK’s Newton Fund, the British Council, the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), IIASA alumni and current scholars and consortium members of the Southern African Young Scientists Summer Programme (SA-YSSP) and the Southern African Systems Analysis Centre (SASAC).

In his welcoming remarks, Dr Sepo Hachigonta from the NRF, and the IIASA SSARMO Secretary, noted the prominent achievements of the programmes on system approaches. He further noted that as of June 2022, IIASA approved the Sub-Saharan Africa Regional Member Organization (SSARMO) membership. SSARMO is targeted at countries participating in the Science Granting Councils Initiative (SGCI), a multi-country initiative focused on strengthening the capacities of research councils to support research and evidence-based policies that will contribute to economic and social development in Sub-Saharan Africa. Dr Hachigonta noted that this regional membership brings new partnerships, opportunities, and ways to further use system approaches, tools, and thinking to collectively respond to regional challenges and opportunities.  

In celebrating IIASA’s five decades of global excellence, Dr Amelia Marutle, the South African Newton Fund country manager, congratulated and thanked all partners for the remarkable achievements and success in developing the next generation of Systems Analysts on the continent. “At the heart of SASAC is Innovation as a driver for transformation. True innovation adds value to the quality of life of all people” she said. Dr Marutle noted that through robust systems approach training, and the networks, SASAC has developed leaders ready to address challenges head-on. “Through increased regional integration and strengthened North-South Cooperation accelerating the emergence of a new generation of innovative Systems Analysts as demonstrated by SASAC, we can all be excited about the future”. Professor Brian Fath of IIASA shared a keynote address on ‘Using systems analysis to respond to socio and environmental challenges, highlighting practical examples on using system analytics in city planning. 

The next generation of system analysts, represented by SASAC alumni students (Dr Nanamhla Gwedla, Dr Sandile Ngcamphalala , Dr Trésor Mbungu, Dr Sandisiwe Thisani and Dr Gamuchirai Mutezo) shared their journeys and experiences in SASAC, emphasising the benefits from international exposure through mobility, training and mentorship programmes, research collaborations, and joint supervision from world class system analysis experts. Prof Ursula Scharler, the former Chairperson of the South African IIASA Committee noted the value of the programmes to the region and thanked all the stakeholders and students. Programme managers, coordinators, and supervisors who led the past programme provided insights on the impact of the SA-YSSP and SASAC especially aligned with capacity development. Participants highlighted the value of targeted training interventions such as SASAC, in building a well-rounded system analyst and impact orientated research while at the same time provided feedback on areas that might need to be improved.

As part of the discussions, Dr Amani Helmi El Rayes from Egypt presented the North Africa Applied Systems Analysis Centre (NAASAC), a dedicated approach aimed at spreading knowledge, awareness, capacity building, and developing cadres in analysing complex developmental and institutional problems through a holistic view. NAASAC will work closely with SSARMO through SASAC (rebranded as the Sub-Saharan African Systems Analysis Centre) to implement these programmes in Africa.

A further event, and the first meeting of Heads of African Funding Councils, under auspices of the newly formed SSARMO, will take place during the World Science Forum (WSF) in Cape Town on 6 December 2022.

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