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ICESCO Chair for Innovation and Futures in Africa launched at WITS


Wits University, through the Tayarisha Research Group, based at the Wits School of Governance, signed an agreement with The Islamic World Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ICESCO) to host the ICESCO Chair for the study of Innovation and Futures in Africa.

This chair, led by Associate Professor Geci Karuri-Sebina, will result in collaborations between high-level researchers, as well as the development of educational programmes and policy dialogues with societal actors on issues of innovation, futures literacy and foresight.“In this age of fast-changing technologies and digitalisation, it is crucial that we are ensuring that our governance and socio-economic systems are learning systems that can ensure that we are meeting the Sustainable Development Goals and building positive futures for Africa, for humanity, and for our planet,” said Professor Jason Cohen, Dean of the Faculty of Commerce, Law and Management (CLM) at Wits University.

The Chair will be located within the Tayarisha Research Group, a new, and fast-growing initiative at CLM/WSG which seeks to focus on the effects and implications of digital transformation on Africa’s future and its governance.

“The concept of ‘anticipatory governance’ is at the core of this work as we explore possible African digital futures and how we can be both more innovative, but also better prepared to govern adequately as technologies emerge and co-evolve with societal changes, continuously shifting the very conditions of change,” said Karuri-Sebina.

This ICESCO Chair at Wits will be the key driver for research, training, programming and partnering in this field of Anticipatory Governance.

“Within Wits, this stream is consistent with the work of the Wits Innovation Centre and strategy, where there is a University-wide effort ‘to encourage, facilitate, and support the connection between research and innovation’, said Adjunct Professor Themba Maseko, Acting Head of the Wits School of Governance. 

In addition to enhancing African innovation ecosystems and the commercialisation of research, WIC serves as a conduit between Wits and both the private and public sectors to help develop solutions to real-world industry and development problems. WIC is working with the Tayarisha team to develop Africa’s first Gov-tech Incubator which is poised to become a flagship for impactful innovation in governance. The ICESCO Chair on Innovation and Futures in Africa will be integrally linked into this Wits-wide innovation agenda and its emerging offerings.

Karuri-Sebina said there are also important external platforms and opportunities already on the horizon, for example, the African Engineering and Technology Network (Afretech) is an innovation platform that Wits is already involved in and which ICESCO member states are already well represented. This network of technology-focused universities includes Egypt, Senegal, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa and the United States, and it seeks to “drive inclusive digital growth through higher education and the power of collaboration… working together to build engineering and technology capacity in education, knowledge creation, and entrepreneurship.”

Maseko said that South Africa, through Wits and its government partners, has been invited to host the 17th annual United Nations’ global ICEGOV conference which is the premier global convening of governments, scholars and digital governance stakeholders (More information to follow).

The inaugural Chair holder, Prof Karuri-Sebina, will share the many more linkages and opportunities as this initiative progresses.

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