The O.R. Tambo Africa Research Chairs Initiative (ORTARChI) has selected the initiative’s first ten host institutions and individual research chairholders. ORTARChI is an initiative of South Africa’s National Research Foundation (NRF) and the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), in partnership with the Oliver & Adelaide Tambo Foundation (OATF), Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC), and seven councils of the Science Granting Councils Initiative in Sub-Saharan Africa (SGCI).

“For the next five years, the Chairs at these public universities in seven countries across the African continent will conduct research and support high-end skills development on a diverse range of topics including climate, public health, entrepreneurship and youth employment. Aligned to the global concept of research Chairs, these world-class researchers will not only lead multidisciplinary research teams, but also train the next generation of researchers,” said Dr Molapo Qhobela, Chief Executive Officer, NRF.

ORTARChI provides five years of funding amounting to approximately US$15million, granted after a rigorous review process and in recognition of institutional excellence and capacity in identified disciplines; commitment to supporting high-quality research leadership; and talent; as well as to individual, internationally-recognised researchers.

In addition to the support provided through the grant for postgraduate students and postdoctoral fellows, funds will be provided by the NRF and the OATF for 55 African female doctoral students studying under the supervision of the respective Chairholders. “Through international and regional strategic partnerships, the Chairs will contribute to the development of long-term, mutually beneficial, research collaboration on the African Continent,” said Dr Jean Lebel, President, IDRC.

The Initiative

This initiative builds on the work of Oliver Tambo, a prominent South African and pan-Africanist with a science education background, who believed in creating change through education and in cooperation and solidarity among African nations.

“This is an important new chapter in the ORTARChI story. The initiative was first announced in 2017 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of one of the most important leaders of South Africa’s liberation struggle, O.R. Tambo, who led the African National Congress during the years of exile. Tambo was not only a committed pan-Africanist but also an advocate of science and technology,” said Zengeziwe Msimang, Chief Executive Officer, OATF.

The ORTARChI is an opportunity to promote the values for which O.R. Tambo stood. These values include integrity, courage of conviction, diplomacy and humility. The initiative also recognises African excellence in the fields of study about which he was so passionate. Tambo not only believed in Africa as a centre for excellence, but also that it was and would continue to be the home of innovation and brilliance.

“Building on this legacy of O.R Tambo, ORTARChI will enhance the higher education system, promoting research and development in Africa. Of significance is the Initiative’s contribution to the development of mutually beneficial medium and long term partnerships between and amongst countries within and beyond Africa. As a collective, the Research Chairs will also leverage partnerships with the civil society, private sector, and government, a highly commendable approach to implementing excellent research,” added Prof Vitória Langa de Jesus, Executive Director of Mozambique’s National Research Fund (FNI).

The Research Chairs

Below is the full list of the 10 research Chairholders and host institutions:

Research Chairholder Institution and Country Thematic Area Research Focus of Chair
Prof Gizaw Mengistu Tsidu Botswana International University of Science & Technology, Botswana Climate Change Climate change and adaptation in water, vegetation and livestock resources
Prof Almeida Sitoe Eduardo Mondlane University, Mozambique Climate Change Ecosystems for arid and semi-arid zones
Prof Olga Lompo and Dr Samiratou Ouedraogo Université Joseph KI- ZERBO, Burkina Faso Health Sciences Cancer and public health
Prof Kwesi Firibu Saalia University of Ghana Food Security Food safety and quality
Prof Nathaniel Boso Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana Humanities and Social Sciences  Entrepreneurship and youth employment
Prof Gerald Misinzo Sokoine University of Agriculture, Tanzania Food Security Animal health
Prof Noble Banadda Makerere University, Uganda Food Security Sustainable agriculture
Prof Stephen Syampungani Copperbelt University, Zambia Environment and Development Environmental management
Prof Imasiku Nyambe University of Zambia Water Research Water quality and catchment protection

Prof Hulda Swai

Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology, Tanzania


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What Are Research Chairs?

Research Chairs are normally granted in recognition of individual leadership and talent and recognise the commitment of universities to supporting high-quality research. Chairs foster prestige and visibility for individuals to catalyse expertise in a given area and train the next generation of scholars, as well as attract and retain the best research talent at a given institution. Chairholders are expected to meet set targets for staff development, and additional funds are provided for supporting post-doctoral and postgraduate students under the supervision of the respective Chairholders. Such research hubs have a catalytic impact on the development of research infrastructure in host countries; as well as contribute to knowledge production and high-end skills in alignment with the African Union Agenda 2063 and the Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa (STISA 2024).

Canada’s pioneering Canada Research Chairs programme began in 1997 and has funded almost 2000 research chairs to date. The successful South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI) was established in 2006, as a strategic intervention of the South African government to attract and retain excellence in research and innovation at South African public universities, Research Councils and National Research Facilities. In particular, the SARChI funding instrument is aimed at increasing scientific research capacity through the development of human capacity and stimulating the generation of new knowledge. SARChI is also intended to support and advance transformation of South African society in terms of demographics and the knowledge economy, so that there is equitable and inclusive participation in the generation of knowledge and the generation of such knowledge translates into socio-economic benefits. The implementation of ORTARChI is aligned to SARChI, providing a platform for sharing of experiences and further collaborations amongst top researchers on the continent

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