On 10 March 2021, SDSN and the
University of Pretoria (UP) co-hosted the final session of UP’s inaugural
Africa Week, with academic and sustainability leaders participating from across
the continent and globally. The Africa Week program was underpinned by the
principles of collaboration, partnering, and transdisciplinarity, and focused
on reimagining universities, navigating complexity to address the SDGs, sustainable
food systems, and measuring the impact of universities.
For the closing session, a
captivating and high-level leadership dialogue addressed “Transforming
Universities and Accelerating Education for the SDGs”. The session played a key
role in strengthening the bridge between reimagining universities at one end of
the spectrum, and increasing their positive impacts at the other.
Featured in the dialogue were Ms.
Maria Cortes-Puch, Vice President, Networks at SDSN, Professor Labode Popoola,
Vice Chancellor of the University of Osun and Chair of SDSN Nigeria, and Ms.
Caroline Makasa, Acting Director of the SDG Center for Africa. They were joined
by Professor Jeffrey Sachs, President of the SDSN and Professor Tawana Kupe,
Vice Chancellor and Rector of the University of Pretoria.
Across the speakers, there was a
clear recognition of the vanguard role that universities must play in
addressing Africa’s development challenges for sustainable futures, along with
need to rapidly escalate collaboration to harness resources for greater
leverage. The conversation grappled with how to embed transdisciplinary
collaboration into the fabric of universities. One clear way is to identify specific
and shared complex challenges, using them as the sharp end to drive
transdisciplinary collaboration. The approach has been used with success in the
SDSN, as well as with the African Research Universities Alliance. Further work
still needs to be done in translating this across all areas of universities, into
their DNA and their new normal.
Two key challenges and
opportunities facing the continent were highlighted by Professor Sachs: using digital
technologies and digital transformation for mass scale of access to education
at all levels; and major transformations in sustainable energy generation for
widespread access and development. These are defined areas that will be pursued
following the meeting, supported by the clear momentum that has been
In closing, Professor
Kupe affirmed the participants’ leadership and commitment to partnerships which
build capacity in Africa, and to accelerating impact at scale to still achieve
the SDGs and Agenda 2063 in a post COVID world. He gave a compelling call for
all to join in the hard work required to achieve the radical change needed to
turn our good ideas and intentions into reality.
To watch, the full session please visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2thZfVWTRc&ab_channel=SDSN