The Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST) is celebrating research and academic excellence as it emerged first among the ten top institutions which participated in the OR Tambo Africa Research Chairs Initiative (ORTARChI) selection process. The process was coordinated by the National Research Foundation (NRF) of South Africa. The launch of the chairs, which was held on 27th October, 2020, coincides with what would have been O.R Tambo’s 103rd birthday, a legend known for his passion for freedom, science and technology.
The ORTAChI aim is to support a new strand of Research Chairs, with a clear and inclusive focus on the African continent. This is to catalyse the impact on the development of research infrastructure in recipient countries; and contribute to knowledge production and high-end skills in alignment with the African Unity (AU) Agenda 2063 and STISA 2024.
The Hon. Dr. Douglas Letsholathebe, Minister of Tertiary Education, Research Science and Technology (MOTE) recognised BIUST as a pioneering research centre which has made the country and its people proud in its quest to transform the economy from resource-based to a knowledge-based economy and for the fundamental role it plays as a Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) institution in Botswana.
Ministers from Sub Saharan Africa applauded BIUST and newly appointed Research Chair, Professor Gizaw Mengistu Tsidu’s prestigious award and milestone achievements in his award winning research proposal themed ‘Climate Change and Adaptation’.
The research, scoped for a five-year term, seeks to address knowledge and data gaps as well as the required skilled human capacity in the area of water, livestock, vegetation resources and climate services.
Among others the BIUST research includes policy instruments, public education for water security and climate change vulnerability assessments to inform policy to respond to sectorial sustainable development planning as well as to manage the consequence of climate change through adaptation and mitigation strategies informed by research to solve challenges facing humanity locally, regionally and internationally.
The research further seeks to address the skills shortages prevalent in water and land resource management in Botswana and Sub-Saharan Africa in general. The proposed research is multi and inter-disciplinary in nature, acting across disciplines of mathematics, statistics, chemistry, biotechnology and agriculture.
During the five-year period of ORTARChI, the fund of US$15 million will among others benefit 10 research chair holders including BIUST in human and institutional capacity development as follows:
• BIUST will train 15 MSc and 9 PhDs and mentor up to 15 emerging scientists from Botswana and Sub-Saharan Africa;
• used on research infrastructure (equipment), materials and supplies, visiting scientists, conferences, research assistants and science engagement with stakeholders and selected community during the testing phase of decision support tools to provide climate services; and
• attract student exchange visits, knowledge and experience sharing between collaborating countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.
In his Statement of Commitment to the ORTARChI, the BIUST Vice Chancellor, Professor Otlogetswe Totolo pledged support for the project through administrative processes and due diligence to honor and promote the legacy of O.R. Tambo, emulating his values of ‘professional excellence, integrity, inclusiveness, honesty, humility and respect for human dignity’.
Administratively, the BIUST Chair will report to the Deputy Vice Chancellor (DVC) for Research, Development and Innovation to ensure prudential and effective management of the fund and accountability to the public. We congratulate Professor Gizaw Mengistu Tsidu for emerging top among more than 50 applications from African countries which competed for the award.