North-West University Emerging As An African Research Hub

Building on increasing international recognition from ranking agencies, South Africa’s North-West University (NWU) is positioning itself for increased engagement with the private sector both within South African and across the African continent. The institution has long been fostering a culture of research & development. Recently, researchers at the university have been working with colleagues from private sector companies to jointly develop, commercialise and patent products.

The university is recognised in particular for quality subject offerings in the fields of atmospheric science, clinical medicine, education, hospitality and tourism management, and public health. In addition to research projects with private industry, the university has engaged with African governments on environmental and engineering science research projects.

Prof. Dan Kgwadi

Prof Dan Kgwadi

In an interview with the university vice-chancellor, Prof. Dan Kgwadi, made clear his ambition for the university to be positioned as a leading hub of African research as the continent moves into the fourth industrial revolution. Key Points from the interview include;

On Working With Industry Leaders:

“We are working to make things right so as to remain relevant and competitive. Our infrastructure must support the consumption of ICT through long-distance programmes which will solve the issue of access. Special attention must also be given to the relevance of our overall product. Our curriculum is being redone in conjunction with industries to come up with a better product. The process is happening through regular meetings with industrial representatives to ensure we get input and feedback.

“Meetings with industry officials have helped us considerably close the gap between academia and industry, which is seen in most jurisdictions. The law fraternity in South Africa for instance, has made it clear to us that they are unhappy with the calibre of lawyers being produced in the country. Discussions with the likes of them help us create new curriculums or revise current ones for the good of the country.” 

On Research & Development:

“We have to be as open as possible to new ideas and technologies to secure our future. We have to make an impact with our science and technology focus, as well as in our social sciences agenda.

We have wide-ranging niche areas that are all geared towards helping our government and private sector resolve challenges. Our institution has thirty-four niche research entities with our newest one looking at environmental matters.”

On the Commercialisation of Research:

“One of my deputy vice-chancellors has a title that includes research and innovation. The creation of a research and innovation position at deputy vice-chancellor level shows how much we value the discipline. We have seen the creation of entities birthed from partnerships between our researchers and industries.

“Our researchers and their counterparts from the industry come together and do activities that attract funding while utilising our facilities here. Through these synergies, we have been able to create products that have been successfully commercialised. We are also working with governments within the continent on environmental and engineering science projects. Some of the products we are producing are becoming very popular, and we are finalising procedures that will see us patent them.”


Explore the North-West University Content Hub on to see how the university is engaging in critical research to uplift the African continent. Key features:

NWU Heads SA Core Team in Fight against Neuromuscular Diseases

The social and economic impact of neuromuscular diseases (NMDs) is staggering. These diseases, which include motor neuron disease and muscular dystrophies, can cause premature death or lifelong disability and are believed to affect one in every 400 people – meaning about 20 million children and adults across the globe.

There is hope on the international front, however. Precise genetic diagnoses, gene discoveries and new therapies are having a positive impact on patient care and well-being in developed countries.

This is not yet the case in developing countries with under-studied populations such as South Africa, where more research is desperately needed to develop effective genetic diagnoses and treatments for rare inherited disorders such as NMDs.

This is where the North-West University (NWU) is playing an important role, both as partner in an international collaborative study and as coordinator of the core South African team that will investigate NMD in the region.


The Plastic Problem: NWU Researchers highlight Major Data Gaps

Researchers at the university discovered major data gaps related to marine plastic pollution produced in South Africa.

The research highlighted that in order to tailor a plastic policy for the country, more spatial and temporal data are needed (especially for freshwater bodies). This will determine areas in need of protection, areas under highest threat, and processes that may be targeted for intervention.


Putting Edible Insects on the Menu

Many South Africans perceive insects as disease-carriers and crop destroyers, instead of noting the crucial role they play in food security, soil improvement, nutrition and pollination. In fact, in the North West, Limpopo and Mpumalanga, flying ants, grasshoppers, mopane worms, African metallic wood-boring beetles and edible stinkbugs are delicacies.

To educate the public about this multi-million Rand industry, researchers from the North-West University (NWU) and Rikkyo University in Japan were tasked with decoding indigenous knowledge systems of the mopane worm and the edible stinkbug for the school curriculum.

Getting the most out of medicinal plant extracts with nanotechnology

A North-West University (NWU) graduate is bringing together age-old plant knowledge and the latest nanotechnology to make the most of medicinal plant extracts.

According to a United States National Nanotechnology Initiative, nanotechnology is currently revolutionising the technology and industrial sectors. These include information technology, homeland security, medicine, transportation, energy, food safety and environmental science, among many others.

MSc graduate Pule Silent Seboletswe recently conducted research into how nanotechnology can help in finding solutions for problems related to the use of natural products for therapeutic purposes.


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