The University of Venda (UNIVEN) and the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the margins of the Bio-Africa Convention on 31 August 2022. The UNIVEN delegation was led by the Vice-Chancellor and Principal , Dr Bernard Nthambeleni. The Vice-Chancellor and Principal was supported by Dr Segun Obadire, Acting Director: International Relations and Partnerships (IRP), Prof Jude Odhiambo, Acting Executive Dean, Faculty of Science, Engineering and Agriculture and the coordinator Mr Thabo Dikgale, Partnership Officer, International Relations and Partnerships. The signing of MoU took place at Durban International Convention Centre.

On photo: From Left to Right: Dr Segun Obadire, Acting Director, IRP (UNIVEN), Ms Mmampei Chaba, Chief Director, Africa Multilateral Cooperation (DSI), Dr Luiz Zerbini, Acting Director, ICGEB Cape Town, Dr. Lawrence Banks, Director General, ICGEB, Dr. Bernard Nthambeleni, Vice Chancellor and Principal, (UNIVEN), Prof Jude Odhiambo, Acting Executive Dean, Faculty of Science, Engineering and Agriculture (UNIVEN) 

Dr Segun Obadire, and Dr Luiz Zerbini opened the meeting and facilitated the introduction of the panel and the meeting participants. In his opening remarks, Dr Obadire highlighted the fact that UNIVEN is delighted to be establishing this partnership with the ICGEB as it will unlock various opportunities for UNIVEN staff and students. Dr Obadire also highlighted the fact that there is already a number of initiatives that are underway, “this MoU is meant to officially cement the partnership and increase the number of activities”. In his intervention, the Acting Executive Dean for the Faculty of Science, Engineering and Agriculture, Professor Odhiambo underscored the possible cooperation areas and activities currently underway.

Dr. Bernard Nthambeleni, Vice- Chancellor and Principal (far left) 

Dr Nthambeleni provided a presentation which outlined the central tenets of the MoU and a brief synopsis about UNIVEN. He indicated that at a high level the MoU will prioritise the following cooperative areas for immediate implementation (subject to the availability of funds).
▪ Joint Fellowship Programme: Allowing for UNIVEN students to access and utilise training opportunities in ICGEB laboratories in Cape Town, South Africa, New Delhi, India and Trieste, Italy.
▪ Early Career Return Grants: Emerging researchers at UNIVEN can be supported through the ICGEB CRP Grant programme.
▪ Cooperation on areas of joint scientific interest and expertise: Focusing on Agricultural Biotechnology and Health Sciences.
▪ Community outreach and education: ICGEB and UNIVEN outreach units working together on joint programmes, contributing to the UNIVEN vision of a University leading in engaged scholarship. 

When concluding his talk, Dr Nthambeleni indicated that UNIVEN is fully committed to the implementation of this MoU and will allocate the necessary resources to realise the full potential of this partnership. He also indicated that UNIVEN will host the ICGEB Director General, Dr. Lawrence Banks and his colleagues in early November 2022. The ICGEB delegation will visit the University to discuss the implementation of the MoU and to deliver a public lecture. 

Speaking on behalf of the DSI, Chief Director, Africa Multilateral Cooperation, Ms Mmampei Chaba, outlined the evolution and bidding process for South Africa’s hosting of the ICGEB. In her intervention Ms Chaba, noted that hosting the ICGEB positions South Africa as a leader in health and microbiology research as well as a conduit between ICGEB and the region. 

In his remarks, the ICGEB Director General, Dr. Lawrence Banks reiterated that although the MoU was signed on 31 August 2022, the cooperation is already in motion. In this regard, Dr Banks noted that plans are already in place for the establishment of courses as well as student and staff exchanges. Dr Banks also highlighted that UNIVEN’s geographical positioning in the region is also very strategic, allowing for ICGEB’s work to be extended to the region and the community. In conclusion, Dr Banks indicated his delight for this initiative and wished all the parties well in the implementation phase. 

Issued by:
Department of Marketing, Branding and Communication
University of Venda
Tel: (015) 962 8525 / 8710
Date: 13 September 2022 

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