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Thomas Dupleix
8 July 2022 Last update on Friday, July 8, 2022 At 11:46 AM

On July 1, the University of Montpellier, in the south of France, received a delegation of academics from South Africa. In total, 130 presidents and vice-presidents were present for a time of international exchanges devoted to sustainable development. What relationships? What projects? What common ambitions? Video reportage.

The French Embassy in South Africa, the University of Montpellier (France) the research organizations specifically involved in the partnership with South African universities – CNRS, IRD, Cirad in the lead – organized a day of exchange, last July 1. The reception at the University of Montpellier of this delegation followed the New Africa-France Summit, an initiative led by the Presidency of the French Republic, in October 2021.

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During the day of July 1, three times of exchanges in the form of round tables followed one another by associating South African and French colleagues around the challenges of agriculture and food, health and the environment. Among the South African representatives, Professor Chris NHLAPO, vice-chancellor of the University of Cape Peninsula (Cape Town). “We work together on satellite missions, he says. We launched a number of satellites with them into space, and we also exchanged scholars and students.

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Space but also maritime projects, as confided by Doctor Thandi MGWEBI, deputy vice-chancellor at Nelson Mandela University in Port Elizabeth. “There’s a lot going on in terms of research in oceanography, marine science, etc., she says. We would like to map all these activities to develop our institutional relations.

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The leitmotif of these inter-university exchanges: food issues related to global warming. “We do a lot of research-oriented things, says Professor Tawana KUPE, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Pretoria. But not just any type of research: research that has an impact to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals in order to create a better and more sustainable future, both for people in France, in Africa, and around the world.

Upcoming projects?

There are many research projects in the field of oceanography, health, animal health, plant health, or even human health“, adds the Vice-President of the University of Montpellier (France) responsible for international relations, Patrick CARON.

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Because in addition to its research activities with South Africa in the field of nanosatellites, the University of Montpellier also collaborates with South African universities and organizations in the fields of electronics, health, and the environment. Proof of this are, in the period 2014-2018, the 40 publications between the University of Montpellier and the University of Pretoria, co-signed mainly in the fields of environmental sciences and ecology. “Environment and food security is an area that represents an opportunity for the future,” concludes Professor Cishe ELINA NOMABANDLA, Chair of Sustainable Rural Development at Walter Sisulu University (Mthatha).

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Also note that at the doctoral level, South African universities are beginning to set up joint thesis supervision (double degree and structuring tool for joint international research). Moreover, a first was supported in 2020 with the University of Cape Town in the field of ecology and two are in progress at the University of Stellenbosch in biotechnology and microbiology and that of Johannesburg in Earth and soil sciences.

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