The University of Pretoria (UP) was established in 1908 with just four professors and 32 students, in a little house called Kya Rosa. Today, it is one of the largest research universities in South Africa. UP has transformed into a dynamic university community of staff and students who come from a range of diverse backgrounds and cultures showcasing South African and global societies. The University was born from a vision to create a space for quality education and for new ideas to flourish. Over the course of its existence, and through different phases of political power and social change, UP has been resilient in its commitment to academic quality.
This has allowed us to establish a presence among the top 1,9% of universities worldwide. Our vision has always been to look forward, provide the best possible education for our students, and encourage them to go on to do great things. We are continuously transforming the corporate and research landscape through innovative thinking and the high calibre of our graduates. More than a quarter of a million alumni have passed through our doors. Many are on the path to success, while others have already become leaders in their fields both locally and internationally.
One of my legacies as the vice-chancellor of the University of Johannesburg has been to bring issues of technology to the forefront. We push technology forward through conversations as the leading voice for the fourth industrial revolution in South Africa. We were instrumental in the South African government’s decision to pursue matters of the fourth industrial revolution. Our efforts have been fruitful because our president is now the chairman of the fourth industrial revolution commission, where I serve as his deputy. The courses we offer at the university are well aligned with our agenda.
South Africa’s electricity sector has faced a series of challenges over the last two decades. It started with inadequate grid infrastructure to provide electricity to the majority of the South African population in the 1990s. In 1994, only 36% of total households were electrified; 50% of the urban population and 12% of the rural population.
Particularly in the middle of the 2000s, the national utility, Eskom, ran into liquidity and profitability problems. It received frequent government bailouts. The 2022 national budget allocated R21.9 billion (about US$1.5 billion) to Eskom.
One of the things that contributes to ecosystem degradation in South Africa is invasion by alien plants. This is estimated to cost the nation R6.5 billion annually in damages and the government spends over R400 million annually clearing alien trees. Despite this investment, alien tree invasions continue to increase across the country.
Alien trees threaten biodiversity, increase the risk of more intense and frequent wildfires and also guzzle water. This is an important factor in water scarce regions, like South Africa, that experience droughts.