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New African Centre to study the US

- Wits University

A new Centre at Wits University has been established to serve as an intellectual hub for the study of the United States.

Named the African Centre for the Study of the United States (ACSUS), the Centre will generate new knowledge of the US in Africa and produce applied knowledge for different sectors.

Wits University and partners held a conference to mark this development on 8 March 2018 at the Wits Club, Braamfontein Campus East.

Professor Tawana Kupe, Wits Acting Vice-Chancellor and Vice Principal said the Centre has been in the making for two years and fits with the University’s vision.  

The new Centre is aligned to the Wits Vision 2022, a strategic framework which aims to solidify the University’s position as aleading research intensive University.

“Part of the strategic objectives of ACSUS is to establish an African-based hub for critical thinking and analysis, create a vibrant multi and inter-disciplinary home for collegial and collaborative explorations,” says Professor Gilbert Khadiagala, Director of ACSUS.

Furthermore, we want to build strategic partnerships with think-tanks, civil society organisations and universities in Africa and the US and provide a base for visiting scholars researching and teaching in relevant areas,” adds Khadiagala.

The Bergman family, the US Embassy in South Africa and the Ford Foundation are some of the early supporters of the Centre.

Speaking at the conference, Chargé d’Affaires Jessye Lapenn said that the US Mission to South Africa supports ACSUS because “Africa matters.”

She noted six of the world’s ten fastest growing economies are in Africa and that progress towards opening markets for free trade and foreign investment has spurred economic growth, development, and tremendous opportunity across the continent. 

Prof. Gilbert Khadiagala, Prof. Tawana Kupe, Moeletsi Mbeki, Jessye Lapenn and Dr Marion Bergman at the African Centre for the US study conference

“The United States is very much engaged in Africa today and ACSUS will be a platform to develop the understanding that will advance both American and African priorities,” noted Lapenn. 

Philanthropist and American based Wits alumna, Dr Marion Bergman was in attendance. She commended the inclusive nature of the Centre.

“There are many things that I like about this Centre. ACSUS is inclusive. It is not a Wits Centre, but an African Centre. That is very attractive for me,” said Bergman.

Dr Bergman is married to Stanley Bergman, a Wits alumnus and CEO of Henry Schein, Inc.

Speaking on behalf of Bergman, David Kochman Vice President for Corporate Affairs at Henry Schein says that their involvement with the Centre is enlightened by self-interest.

“We, as a company, firmly believe that the success of the global economy is closely linked to the growth and development of the new Africa and Wits is a dynamic shining educational beacon of the entire continent. There is certainly no question that Africa’s progress is truly extraordinary and that Wits graduates are global leaders that are unlocking Africa’s potential.

Moeletsi Mbeki, Deputy Chairman of the South African Institute of International Affairs and the first private funder of the Centre took delegates down memory lane recounting the shared history between the two countries.  

“We solved the problem of apartheid with the intervention of the US especially in the 1970’s and the 1980’s.”

As old partners in eradicating inequality, South Africa and the US have lots to share as they confront modern day challenges, such as economic inequality.

ACSUS will officially be launched later this year.