THE inaugural Southern Africa Impact Forum to address global hunger

The event will gather university leaders and sustainable development experts to discuss how higher education can tackle SDG 2 – Zero hunger

February 14, 2020
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The inaugural Times Higher Education Southern Africa Impact Forum of university leaders and sustainable development experts from around the world will gather at the University of Pretoria from 3-4 February, 2021 to debate the role of higher education in tackling hunger and malnutrition, it was announced today.

Employing the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a common framework for recognising impact and establishing new links within the region, the forum will seek to identify feasible strategic solutions for universities in the midst of a tectonic shift in our understanding of global challenges. The discussion will be orientated on SDG 2 – Zero hunger as a focus point for research and investment across southern Africa.

Tawana Kupe, vice-chancellor of the University of Pretoria, stated: “UP is proud to host and welcome our colleagues from Times Higher Education at the start of a new decade in which our research-intensive focus is set to boost other long-term goals such as greater internationalisation and global engagement.”

Lindiwe Sibanda, co-chair of the UN Global Alliance for Smart Agriculture, will deliver a keynote speech on the future of food science, exploring how scientists can overcome cultural boundaries to ensure food security and eradicate hunger.

The forum will also build on the evidence base of the THE University Impact Rankings, the only global metrics that assess the performance of universities against the SDGs.

They will be explored in detail in a masterclass led by Duncan Ross, THE’s chief data officer, who said: “Of all the SDGs, perhaps number two – Zero hunger – is the one that hits home the hardest.

“It’s almost impossible to conceive that, in 2020, over 820 million people are undernourished. And with this number expected to grow to over 2 billion, it’s important that we consider how the failure to act on the other SDGs will contribute to this – if we don’t behave sustainably with regards to life on land or below water; if we don’t maintain and develop peace and strong institutions; above all, if we fail to act on climate change.

“Universities can, and will, be leaders in the fight against hunger and malnutrition, and it’s exciting to be going to Pretoria where we can explore how Africa and its universities can be the catalyst for change,” Mr Ross said.

Cheikh Mbow, director of the Future Africa initiative at the University of Pretoria, will lead an expert panel with leaders from the UK, Ghana, France and the Netherlands examining how the SDGs have enabled a new inspiration and model for international collaboration and interdisciplinary research, especially between institutions that might not have existing partnerships.

“Leveraging off our academic networks and engaging with and collaborating with international partners in order to produce research that matters, and has an impact on society, is a cornerstone of our UP philosophy,” Professor Kupe said.

Along with other university leaders, Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg, director of the African Women in Agricultural Research and Development, will emphasise the kind of support that universities need from governments, NGOs and the private sector to have an impact, and how this can be enhanced through effective interactions with civil society.

Concentrating on civic efforts to combat damaging consumer habits, Aldo Stroebel, executive director of strategic partnerships at the National Research Foundation of South Africa, and Joanna Newman, CEO and secretary general of the Association of Commonwealth Universities, will address whether the public actually has the data literacy needed to understand and adopt the change necessary for meaningful impact.

Professor Kupe concluded: “We welcome the opportunity to host a range of experts as we come up with solutions to the scourge of food insecurity. Working together in global partnerships, we can achieve the UN SDG goal of zero hunger by 2030. The THE Southern Africa Impact Forum is the perfect opportunity to pool our collective resources and energies into solving this issue once and for all.”

Find more information about the THE Southern Africa Impact Forum and how to register.

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