#04 2022

NRF-SAEON continues to support regional science diplomacy through IORA

By Nicole du Plessis, SAEON Egagasini Node & KGame Molope, North-West University

South Africa chaired the 27th Indian Ocean Rim Association Academic Group (IORAG) Meeting on 14 September 2022. Prof Juliet Hermes, the current regional chair of the IORAG, chaired the meeting, with Mr KGame Molope, the chair of the national chapter of the IORAG, as the South African country representative. The meeting was attended by over 50 participants from the IORA Member States, dialogue partners and observers. 

The theme of the meeting was ‘Reimagining the IORAG as the ‘think-tank’ of IORA’. The programme consisted of two technical sessions, followed by the administrative meeting of the IORAG at which the 2022–2027 work plan was discussed. The technical sessions focused on Strengthening the Academic-Policy Interface and Water Sciences in IORA.

Since South Africa first chaired IORA and the IORAG (2017–2019), the strengthening of regional academic engagement through IORA has continued to be a priority, as well as establishing the IORAG as an active research platform for the region. The presentations and open discussions on the academic-policy interface highlighted how important it was to translate research knowledge into actionable and collaborative programmes to address regional challenges.

The Water Research Commission of South Africa (WRC) has signed a memorandum of understanding with the IORA Regional Centre for Science and Technology Transfer (IORA-RCSTT) to form a Coordination Centre on Water and Sanitation Research and Innovation. Water security has been addressed in IORA on an ad hoc basis, but through the IORAG and the Working Group for Science and Innovation (WGSTI), South Africa is trying to formalise this as an area needing more focused interventions.

The session on water science highlighted the experiences and technical expertise in the region across different areas of water science. Most notably, the WRC is in the process of developing a research and technology development programme on water quality*.

Working Group for Science and Innovation 

With the reform of the IORAG into a platform for academics, IORA established the WGSTI as a platform for policymakers responsible for science, technology and innovation to deliberate on areas of common interest. The second meeting of the WGSTI, held in-person in New Delhi, India, was hosted by the Government of India’s Department of Science and Technology on 30 September 2022.

South Africa is committed to supporting the activities of IORA

Participants at the Second Working Group for Science and Innovation Meeting held in New Delhi, India

South Africa was represented by Mr Selby Modiba and Ms Fhumulani Ramukhwatho (Department of Science and Innovation), and SAEON’s Ms Nicole du Plessis. The working group deliberated on the WGSTI work plan and proposed work plan activities. Of particular note was the interest shown by policymakers to undertake marine science research in region. The development of a platform for knowledge sharing on aromatic and medicinal plants, workshops on desalination, and climate change was also discussed.

South Africa is committed to supporting the activities of IORA, as a means for building science networks in the region that can support the development of academic progress nationally and strengthen relationships with countries in the region.

*Anyone interested in contributing to the development of this programme may contact Mr Tiyani Chauke, Manager: International Projects, Water Research Commission: tiyanic@wrc.org.za