SRI2024 Africa Satellite Event: Advancing Sustainability Research and Innovation in Africa

SRI2024 Africa Satellite Event: Advancing Sustainability Research and Innovation in Africa

The Sustainability Research and Innovation Congress Africa (SRI2024) Satellite Event, held at the Elangeni Hotel in Durban from 21 – 24 May 2024, was a significant gathering that brought together over 400 participants from more than 21 countries, predominantly from the African continent. The conference was supported by the National Research Foundation (NRF), South Africa and its primary objective was to explore regional scientific approaches to transformative sustainability research and innovation and to incorporate these findings into the main SRI2024 congress program scheduled to take place in Helsinki, Finland, on 10-15 June 2024.

The event featured five plenaries and 48 sessions focused on various critical themes such as climate justice, green and blue economies, digital innovation for sustainability, and sustainability science for impact and change. It provided a platform for attendees to delve into socio-economic and ecological issues crucial for the advancement of sustainable practices and solutions in Africa.

In delivering his welcoming address, Dr Sepo Hachigonta, Director: Business Advancement at the NRF urged for more impactful research. “We know we can speak of climate change; we can speak of energy; we can speak of opportunities within the digital age. But at the end of the day we have to be looking at who’s at the other end. There’s unemployment, poverty, and limited access to healthcare. At the end of the day, we need to be responding to these. We need to make that effort to ensure that we go an extra mile beyond publications. We need to engage with different stakeholders whether it’s the government, public.”

Noteworthy milestones during the conference included the launch of three Future Earth Africa Hub Regional Nodes by the NRF. These nodes, hosted by Maseno University in Kenya (East Africa); Helwan University in Egypt (North Africa); and Cape Coast in Ghana and the University Lomé Togo (West Africa), aim to enhance the coordination and integration of sustainability research efforts across the African continent. The Central and Southern Africa nodes will be announced later this year.

Dr Thandi Mgwebi, Group Executive: Business Advancement at the NRF, explained that the nodes are designed to impact sustainability research across Africa, hence every region will have one. “We made a promise that it’s going to be a hub and spoke model, with the different spokes in the different regions. This is where we are now.”

Additionally, the NRF, in collaboration with the Belmont Forum, launched the Africa Regional Call, with the NRF as the lead agency. The Call introduced funding opportunities for scientists and stakeholders involved in transdisciplinary research addressing sustainable approaches for climate adaptation and mitigation in Africa.

“This two-stage Call currently focuses on key themes such as the Water-Energy-Food-Health Nexus, Pollution (air, land, and ocean), and Disaster Preparedness, Responsiveness, and Recovery,” said Nicole Arbour, Director of the Belmont Forum. “Moreover, promoting green and blue economies as cross-cutting issues across all themes emphasises the commitment to tackling sustainability challenges comprehensively.”

Michael Nxumalo, the NRF’s Director: Africa Collaborative Grants and Initiatives in the Knowledge Advancement and Support directorate, described the SRI2024 Africa Satellite Event as a critical stepping stone towards fostering collaborative efforts and innovative and transformative solutions for addressing sustainability issues in Africa. “With a diverse range of participants and stimulating discussions, the conference set the stage for further progress and meaningful contributions to transformative sustainability research and innovation on the continent,” he said.

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