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On Friday, 17 September 2021 the University of Venda (UNIVEN) in collaboration with Musina-Makhado Special Economic Zone hosted a successful Staff/Student virtual Smart City Symposium. This was a continuation and the summing up of the main Smart City Symposium that took place at UNIVEN Research Conference Centre on Thursday, 16 September 2021. 

The UNIVEN-MMSEZ Smart City Model Symposium is a culmination of the memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed on 10 February 2021 between the UNIVEN represented by Dr Bernard Nthambeleni, Vice-Chancellor and Principal and Mussina Makhado Special Economic Zone (MMSEZ), represented by Mr Lehlogonolo Masoga, the CEO of MMSEZ. 

Executive Dean of the Faculty of Science, Engineering and Agriculture, Prof Ntebogeng

The Staff-Student Smart City Symposium was officially opened by the Executive Dean of the Faculty of Science, Engineering and Agriculture, Prof Ntebogeng Mokgalaka-Fleischmann. Prof Mokgalaka-Fleischmann started her talk by reflecting on what transpired on day one of the main symposium which was attended by high-profile stakeholders from public and private sectors. 

In her remarks, Prof Mokgalaka-Fleischmann highlighted that UNIVEN has adopted a new path ‘2021-2025 Strategic Plan’ envisioning UNIVEN to be a leading University in ‘engaged scholarship’ and the University recognises four major actors in the innovation system: science, policy, industry, and society, to which UNIVEN wants to contribute. “We understand our role as a University and we know that as a University we should not only be knowledge producers, but co-creators, enablers and  incubators of innovators and entrepreneurs in the national economic ecosystem”. She put more emphasis on the importance of rural communities to retain their cultural identity and they must be included in co-creation of the smart villages and provided with digital skills to be active citizens connected to the smart cities. She also touched on the fact that Limpopo Province is largely a rural environment. 

She said the Symposium draws on staff, students, and stakeholders’ experts on smart cities to share their knowledge and expertise in respect of further shaping and galvanising the implantation of an appropriate and context driven and relevant MMSEZ Smart City Model. 

The staff/student symposium received several interesting presentations on smart city technologies where mentors who have been coaching and mentoring students in the lecturing environment, laboratory environment as well as the communities at the industry, presented several projects that they have done with their students on smart city technologies. “We are looking at the major drivers of change going to the future and the 4IR. The Smart City project is about intergenerational concept. This is something we need to embrace as we cannot do away with. The symposium comes at the right time when we need to collaborate in exchanging experiences and views in relation to smart city technologies”. 

During the panel discussions, staff and students presented on three thematic sub-topics: Smart Energy and Materials Panel moderated by Prof. Bongani Bantwini – Executive Dean, Faculty of Humanities, Social Sciences and Education ; Smart Health and Living Panel was moderated by Prof. Tshilidzi Mulaudzi, Acting Executive Dean, Faculty of Health Sciences; and Smart Mobility and Transport Panel which was finally moderated by the programme Director, Mr Tendai Gondo who is attached to the Department of Urban and Regional Planning. 

The first panel discussion on Smart Energy and Material received four presentations. 

The first presentation on Near Zero Energy Building Envelopes as a Solution for Energy Supply in Smart City, was led by Dr Eric Maluta, Department of Physics at UNIVEN. 

The Second presentation on Green Synthesis of Nanomaterials and Utilisation: Towards a Sustainable Smart City, the group was led by Lutendo Mathomu from Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology, UNIVEN. 

This was followed by a third group which was led by Dr Evison Bhebhe who presented on Smart Organic Waste Management: Converting Waste into Black Soldier Fly Hermetia Illucens (Linnaeus) Larvae Protein and Organic Fertiliser. Members of the group are within the Department of Animal Science as well as Centre for Invasion Biology, UNIVEN. 

Dr David Tinarwo as the leader of the fourth group from the Department of Physics, presented on Development pathways toward smart villages: Potential role of Biogas Technology in the Context of South Africa. 

The Second Session on Smart Health and Living moderated by Prof. Tshilidzi Mulaudzi, Acting Executive Dean, Faculty of Health Sciences, with four presentations: Exploring the provision of early antenatal care at local primary health care facilities in Limpopo province, led by Rhulani Shinyawane. Group members are from the following Departments: Public Health and Advance Nursing; Intersections of spatial (in)justice and smart cities – led by Ms Mmbulaheni Khwashaba, Department of Urban and Regional Planning; The prospects of using tourism industry to advance community livelihoods in Musina municipality, Limpopo Province, South Africa was led by Azwindini Isaac Ramaano, Department of Geography and Geo-Information Sciences; and Cognitive processes mediating behavioural and attitudinal responses to South Africa’s Water Stress: Insights Based on the Augmented Protective Motivation Theory was led by Diko-Makia. Members of the group for this presentation are from the Department of Earth Sciences, University of Venda, and Centre for Student Counseling and Development, University of Limpopo. 

The last Session on Smart Mobility and Transport which was moderated by Mr Tendai Gondo, received only one presentation led by Mr Lutendo Mawelewele. The presentation was on Application of the smart governance approach in sustainable rural-urban transport linkages in small towns of South Africa. Group members are from the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at UNIVEN. 

In her closing remarks UNIVEN’s Director of Community Engagement, Prof Vhonani Netshandama said from the four faculties of UNIVEN, with our collective and collaborative efforts, we will be solving the problems that communities are faced with. She appreciated the leadership of the Faculty of Science, Engineering and Agriculture for this enormous milestone. Most importantly, the students across faculties who participated in this programme that contributed by way of comments and papers. She indicated that this is one of many conversations that we are going to have if we are going to be active partners to this initiative. The symposium has been a learning platform and a platform for us to begin to support one another in re-

imagining the future of the smart city we want. She reminded the audience that part of the reason is that we are beginning to look at and realise our journey towards what we set out on the strategic plan, that is we are going to strengthen our engagement and partnerships. “We are going to make sure that we strengthen our trans-disciplinary researches and initiatives in whatever ways informs. When we interrogate, let us not be limited by our own understanding of what knowledge is as if what we do not know is not important. Let it be the source of inspiration and our need to work with one another so that we can make a contribution which is impactful and intergenerational,” added Prof Netshandama. She indicated that Smart City is not going to happen overnight. Therefore, there is a need to develop things which are fit for purpose. 

As she concluded, she said this shows that there is internal conversation about how we see ourselves within this big project of smart city technologies. 

Issued by: 

Department of Marketing, Branding & Communication 

University of Venda 

Tel: (015) 962 8525 /8710 

Date: 20 September 2021 

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