4th South Africa-Japanese Universities (SAJU) Forum Conference. Themed The Human Being in the 21st Century in the Context of Global Changes

Collaboration and partnership receive unanimous support at the 4th SAJU Forum Conference in Pretoria

Day One of the South Africa-Japanese Universities (SAJU) Forum Conference saw all parties declaring a deeply-felt belief that collaboration between academics, institutions and nations is the way to go if the world's problems are to be tackled and if the United Nations' sustainable development goals are to be realised across the globe.

First tabled to the conference by the host, i.e. the Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Pretoria, Professor Tawana Kupe, this sentiment was echoed by his counterpart, Vice President of the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, Professor Jun Matsukuma. Support for collaborative scholarly enquiry further reverberated in keynote addresses of senior government officials representing both South Africa and Japan.

Professor Tawana Kupe said in a world in constant search for new ideas, new knowledge, new methodologies and new paradigms to solve pressing issues, internationalisation and international collaboration were not empty words or phrases but a deliberate strategy to achieve tangible outcomes.

"What we have in SAJU is a collaborative space that allows for transdisciplinary research that crosses national borders and disciplines. We need to ensure that we use this space and this network opportunity cleverly, strategically, efficiently and productively."

As Professor Kupe pondered the outcomes of this conference, he also expressed a wish that "in the spirit of diversification, decolonisation and epistemic justice and equality, we need to ensure that there is a level of equity also in the sites of our research and deliberation, and in the flow of new knowledge or lessons learned."

Professor Tawana Kupe,Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Pretoria
"None of the issues to be discussed here can be researched or addressed in silos," Prof Kupe stated. "The grand societal challenges facing our contemporary world have to be tackled by us by working together."
Prof Jun Matsukuma
Professor Jun Matsukuma, who went on an academic tour of Western Cape institutions earlier this week, says "For me, it was a journey for discovery. I was fascinated by the universities that I visited. I was impressed by their excellent academic environment and am convinced that the academic exchange with South African universities will be very significant."

Professor Matsukuma agreed that with relationships now solidified between South African and Japanese scholars over the past decade, it was time now to explore transdisciplinary collaborations, as this promised to create more positive outcomes. "There is ample room for jurists and engineers, economists and medical scientists, and sociologists and geologists to now work together," Prof Matsukuma said. He also encouraged scholars to work with practitioners, including policy makers, governmental agencies, and business communities, and to embrace the responsibility to explain their research to the broader public – adding that in engaging communities, scholars get to identify opportunities for new research.

He stated three advantages of the SAJU relationship. First, both South Africa and Japan had made significant efforts to confront their own social problems and consequently had a unique perspective about science and its relationship with the society. The two countries therefore had a lot to learn from each other. Secondly, the SAJU forum was the ideal platform to hold conversations fostering mutual trust – a critical prerequisite for effective research collaboration. Thirdly, the openness of the SAJU Forum to engage governments and business communities also opened the Forum to engage and learn from practitioners. The Industry Roundtable scheduled for Day 2 of the conference offered an excellent example of academia, industry and practitioners outside academia.

The SAJU Forum conference, attended now by 220 delegates, will commence Day 2 proceedings with a Roundtable discussion chaired by the Gordon Institute of Business Science Dean, Professor Nicola Kleyn. Participating in this discussion are the Executive Director of Toyota Wessels Institute for Manufacturing Studies, Prof Justin Barnes; The Executive Vice-President of IDE-JETRO; The Managing Director of Toshiba Africa, Mr Iwasuke Shimada and the University of Pretoria's Professor Masafuni Nagao.

Delegates at SAJU 2019 filled the Future Africa auditorium to capacity.
Delegates at SAJU 2019 filled the Future Africa auditorium to capacity.

On completion of the Roundtable session, half the day will be dedicated to a discussion on modalities of research support for collaboration, student and staff mobility, whereas the last and final quarter is expected to pronounce on a course of action to take this relationship forward. In the words of Prof Ahmed Bawa, Chief Executive of Universities South Africa, the organising committee planned this conference in such a way that would turn SAJU into a formidable academic enterprise yielding life-changing outcomes for both South Africa and Japan. How the conference concludes will be reported on in the coming week.

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