Research is an integral tool in the transformation of society. It should benefit and change people’s lives. The Limpopo Provincial Government in collaboration with the University of Venda (Univen) and University of Limpopo (UL) hosted the 2nd Limpopo Provincial Research Seminar through their implementing agency known as the Limpopo Research Forum (LRF) on 26-27 September 2017 at R-40 conference hall, University of Limpopo.
Some of the presenters and delegates pose for a group photo during the Limpopo Provincial Government Research Seminar
This year’s seminar foregrounded the theme of “Catalysing Socio-Economic Transformation Through Research, Development and Innovation”. It was highlighted during the seminar that since the dawn of majority rule in South Africa during the 1990s, the country has made remarkable strides in terms of political transformation. Despite a variety of policy initiatives and interventions by the government, it is apparent that the pace of socio-economic development is not impressive. It is for this reason that this year’s seminar brings together practitioners and scholars for the purpose of reflecting on the past and present fundamental issues that have derailed the socio-economic transformation agenda in South Africa and Limpopo Province in particular. This is a positive move which is geared at tapping from research, development and innovation to fast-track socio-economic transformation in Limpopo and South Africa as a whole.
The goal of the seminar was to offer researchers in the Limpopo Province a platform to share ideas, experiences and research trends. The seminar also provides the basis and empirical evidence for the province’s future planning, policy making, monitoring and evaluation of service delivery improvement.
The products of our research work should impact directly on the lives of our people- MEC Tooley
The seminar was officially opened by Limpopo MEC for Treasury Mr Rob Tooley on behalf of the Premier of the Limpopo Province, Mr Stanley Chupu Mathabatha. Mr Tooley said Univen and UL must remain relevant to the developmental needs of Limpopo province. “The universities should make their fair contribution towards the realization of the strategic goals and objectives of Limpopo Development Plan (LDP),” Mr Tooley added.
Mr Tooley further said that there is a need to bridge the gap between the work done by academic institutions and the work done by government. “The products of our research work should impact directly on the lives of our people. The battle to rid our country off inherited challenges of poverty, unemployment and diseases cannot be won without the active role of the academic community through research and innovation,” Mr Tooley added.
Let’s invest in the future of the people- Prof Singh
In welcoming the delegates to the two-day seminar on behalf of UL Vice-Chancellor Prof Mahlo Mokgalong, Prof Jesika Singh encouraged them to network extensively.
Prof Singh gave an overview on ‘University of Limpopo: Transforming lives through research, development and innovation’. Prof Singh said: “We have multi-disciplinary research, research uptake, partnering and sustainability that we focus on. It is where we conduct research not just for ourselves or the shelves but for the communities that we serve.”
Prof Singh said they have Material Modelling Centre where they do computational modelling of energy storage materials. “Energy storage plays an increasingly important role for electric vehicles renewables (solar and wind), and backups for energy utilities (Eskom) SA development of Li-ion battery electrodes is based on SA abundant minerals, e.g. Manganese 80% and Titanium 40%,” Prof Singh added.
She outlined that their research activities focus on areas such as water and sanitation; and interdisciplinary research. In her presentation, she encouraged the attendees to invest in the future of the people. “We need to focus on basic education,” Prof Singh said.
Prof Singh emphasized that the existence of LRF is crucial for sustaining collaboration between researchers attached to universities and those in the public sector. Prof Jesika Singh is the Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Innovation and Partnership.
The research contracts should stay within the universities in Limpopo- Prof Ekosse
The Univen Director of Research and Innovation, Senior Professor Georges-Ivo Ekosse gave an overview of the research seminar representing the University of Venda Vice Chancellor and Principal. Prof Peter Mbati. In his overview Prof Ekosse echoed Prof Singh’s invocation that this annual seminar series seeks to foster collaboration between universities in the province and to a larger extent, expand and deepen existing partnerships with research units in different government departments in Limpopo. Prof Ekosse said “we are hosting this seminar with the idea that we can transform the people through research”. Therefore, Limpopo must be transformed and its existence should not be equated by poverty.
Senior Prof Georges-Ivo Ekosse was so vibrant when reporting the status of Univen when it comes to research. “Research is very important in the province and collaboration of universities and government departments on matters relating to research must definitely take place,” said Senior Prof Ekosse. Prof Ekosse said last year’s seminar which was held at Univen had a resounding success. Prof Ekosse said the contract of research should stay within the universities in Limpopo. “We are not happy with the fact that government is giving research contract to universities that are outside the province whereas within the province we have the capacity, skills, scholars and researchers who can manage that,” Prof Ekosse added.
Prof Ekosse in his presentation on ‘University of Venda’s multi-disciplinary research in the transformation of society’ said that Univen had produced 29 PhD graduates during 2017 September graduation. “Currently we have 27 NRF rated researchers and we are rising,” Prof Ekosse added.
“Research will make Limpopo Province to advance in terms of its economic statistics and poverty alleviation. Limpopo Province will expand beyond its expectation if it gives research priority. Univen research niche areas aims to offer Limpopo Province a better place for all and researchers must be brought together for the collaboration of research.”
Following the official opening programme, a series of presentations took place, allowing researchers to present and share their ideas.
The presentations were well received with participants interacting actively with the speakers during questions and answers session. Most of the presentations made appeals for the enhancement of the existing partnerships between researchers attached to universities and government departments in Limpopo for the purpose of collectively fighting challenges and seizing opportunities for catalyzing socio-economic transformation.
The networking session which continued at Bolivia Lodge in Polokwane was broadcasted live on Capricorn FM talk show facilitated by Thabiso Kotane (second from right). Panelists during the talk show were Dr Mavhungu Musitha (far left), Senior Prof Ekosse (far right), Mr Nape Nchabeleng (second from left) and Dr Maria Kanjere (middle).
The Senior Manager of Limpopo Tourism Agency, Dr Mavhungu Musitha, said “We should synergise the relationship between public and the institutions of higher learning because the institutions of higher learning are commonly known for producing knowledge which is based on research.”
We want to make sure that our province is well-marketed as a tourist destination- Dr Musitha
Dr Musitha said they need scientific data in order to achieve their targets. “We want to make sure that our province is well-marketed as a tourist destination. We want to ensure that we have many tourists to enjoy offering. If we have many tourists, job creation will be increased,” Dr Musitha added. Dr Musitha further said they have a memorandum of understanding with Univen so that they can collaborate.
We need to establish a solid partnership with research and academic institutions- Mr Nchabeleng
“We need to establish a solid partnership with research and academic institutions particularly those in Limpopo,” said Director-General of Limpopo Provincial Government and Administration, Mr Nape Nchabeleng.
Mr Nchabeleng further said “We have electronic system which is part of the office of the premier website where we have research repository whereby we collect all the research which has been done particularly by universities. We need more research on industrialisation agenda.
As part of heritage month celebration, the delegates were taken to a tour at Bakoni Malapa Museum.
There is an urgent need for all public sector institutions to make adequate budgets available for research- Dr Shai
The Acting Head of Department: Cultural and Political Studies at UL, Dr. Kgothatso Shai, said this year’s seminar has provided a blue-print of the complexity of the evolving academic and policy discourse on socio-economic transformation in Limpopo such as health, agriculture, manufacturing and governance. “There is an urgent need for all public sector institutions to make adequate budgets available for research. This is crucial for the sustainability of research collaboration between universities and the clients that they wish to service in rendering research and advisory support,” Dr. Shai added.
As a way forward, Dr Shai suggested that in between of the Limpopo Research Forum annual seminar, there is a serious need for related quarterly activities (i.e. colloquiums; working groups; study groups) to sustain the momentum for achieving founding goals and objectives of LRF.
Prof Alpheus Masoga from the University of Venda School of Human and Social Sciences, proposed a vote of thanks.
A two-day seminar facilitated by Mr Takalani Nyelisani (Univen) and Ms Mawethu Mapulane (UL) respectively.
At Bakoni Malapa Museum.
L-R: Senior Prof Ekosse, MEC Rob Tooley, Mr Nape Nchabeleng and Prof Jesika Singh
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Date: 02 October 2017