The SAJU Forum commits to mobilise Japan’s and Africa’s academia to address Africa’s sustainable development challenges

Published On: 15 August 2022|

The fifth South Africa–Japan University (SAJU) Forum conference that concluded on 29 July, 2022, re-committed itself to pursuing strong and sustainable research, innovation and education relationships between universities in the two nations. The conference went further to undertake to galvanise academics from Japan, South Africa and other parts of Africa to collaborate towards addressing sustainable development challenges facing the African continent.

In its concluding statement prepared by the conference Organising Committee, SAJU 5 acknowledged the many lessons learned from the devastating impact of the pandemic on societies across the world — among them, “the need to foreground the challenge of improving the quality of life of all people, and to reduce as much as possible, the deep inequalities within and between societies.”

Understanding that the grand challenges facing humanity are simultaneously local and global, the SAJU Forum proclaimed the centrality of universities in developing a global commons of scholars and scholarship, and, to that end, SAJU 5 sought to understand what steps might be taken to enhance this bilateral collaboration and its impact.

Therefore, at the close of SAJU 5, the SAJU Forum committed itself to:

  1. Continuing to actively pursue more frequent and stronger collaborations between South African and Japanese scholars and universities. It will work with government partners and funding agencies to develop an ecosystem (including funding) for this purpose.
  2. Working with other bodies, such as the Japan-Africa Academic Network, the African Research Universities Alliance, and the International Education Association of South Africa, the Forum will strive to build a global common of scholars and scholarship to address the grand challenges facing humanity, for which the United Nations’ sustainable development goals (SDGs) provide a framework. The SAJU Forum will place special emphasis on building partnerships with universities across Africa.
  3. Building open collaboration and innovation with trust, particularly in the areas of joint postgraduate education and research and innovation. The SAJU Forum will work assiduously to strengthen the public ownership of science and scholarship with the purpose of rekindling trust in experts and in science.
  4. Creating the conditions for university-based scholars to collaborate with industry, the development agencies, and local and national governments to enhance the articulation of the knowledge enterprise with the challenges of development and economic growth.
  5. Deliberately strengthening the capacity of universities in both systems to work effectively as bridges between these societies and to permit the free flow of ideas and scholars.
sa japanese vcs at the relaunch event in 2017
Initially founded in 2007, the SAJU Forum was re-launched, first in Pretoria, South Africa, in December 2016 and, subsequently, in a grand event in Tokyo, Japan, in 2017, that was attended by heads of universities of the two countries, senior government officials representing higher education as well as research supporting bodies from the two nations.

Contributing to Africa’s development agenda

Considering that the multilateral Eighth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD 8) will be held in Tunisia on the 27th and 28th of August, 2022, and taking cognisance of the preliminary engagement between SAJU 4 and TICAD 7 in Yokohama in August 2019, the SAJU Forum will build on that momentum to galvanise the academic sectors in Japan, South Africa and other parts of Africa to address the challenges of sustainable development on the African continent.

According to the TICAD website[1], TICAD, initiated by Japan in 1993, is an open and inclusive platform that gathers African countries and development partners including international and regional organisations, donor countries, Asian countries, the private sector and civil society organisations involved in African development.

The conference aims, among other objectives, to:

  • Promote high level political dialogue between African leaders and their partners on matters related to economic growth, trade and investment, sustainable development, human security, and governance,
  • Integrate African priorities into the international cooperation agendas of partners and donors,
  • Mobilise support for Africa’s development initiatives,
  • Provide basic and comprehensive guidelines on Africa’s development, and
  • Promote cooperation between Asia and Africa with a focus on Africa’s development.

In 2019, a large contingent of South Africa’s academic leaders attended TICAD 7 in Yokohama, and, with their Japanese counterparts from SAJU 4, got to present the SAJU Forum’s perspective on Africa’s development. Professor Ahmed Bawa, Universities South Africa’s Chief Executive Officer, mentioned at the close of SAJU 5 on 29 July, the importance of SAJU 5 presenting a paper in the upcoming TICAD 8 conference in Tunisia, stating its standpoint on its own contribution to Africa’s development.

In the words of Professor Masafumi Nagao, SAJU 5’s closing statement will guide the work of the SAJU Forum henceforth, culminating in SAJU 6 in the next two years.

The virtual SAJU 5, which took place over one and a half day from Thursday, 28 July, attracted researchers, policy makers, students, administrators, research funding agencies, industry and development agencies.  The SAJU Forum, which assembles scholars from the two countries biennially, will continue to meet regularly to maintain the momentum developed thus far, to advance its agenda.

‘Mateboho Green is Universities South Africa’s Manager: Corporate Communication