The purpose of Sasuf (South Africa–Sweden University Forum), a partnership between 36 Swedish and South African universities, is to enhance cooperation between the two countries on research, education and innovation. Some 500 researchers, decision-makers and representatives of government research funding bodies and the business sector are now gathering in Stellenbosch on 6–10 May for the second research and innovation week, to build fruitful international cooperation on the challenges of the 2030 Agenda. The number of participants has more than doubled since last year.

“There is obviously a strong mutual desire among researchers and universities in both our countries to cooperate across disciplinary and national boundaries on the sustainability goals. This project has attracted great attention and many actors want to get involved, it’s grown quite spectacularly,” says Vice-Chancellor Eva Åkesson, who took the initiative for the project after visiting South Africa a few years ago as part of a group of Swedish university leaders.

A delegation will be travelling from Uppsala, consisting of the project management, the Vice-Chancellor and a group of researchers. After last year’s meeting, researchers were offered an opportunity to apply for funds to further develop and implement interdisciplinary research cooperation projects. One of them was Uppsala researcher Lena Zander, Professor of International Business at the Department of Business Studies, whose research focuses on leadership and development of multicultural organisations.

“My interest in Africa dates back some time, and this initiative offers very good conditions for launching interesting joint research projects. You need to meet when you want to get something started. Apart from the main programme, the week also included satellite events at several different venues, so there were plenty of opportunities for interesting meetings,” she says.

Last year she participated in the social transformation theme and it soon emerged that she shared an interest in pedagogy and social change with a group of researchers from Swedish and South African universities. They are now conducting an initial exploratory study of how school can help to stimulate young people’s engagement in society and plan to have a first report ready in time for the third meeting, which will be held in Uppsala in May 2020. The group keeps in touch virtually, but will now meet in real life to discuss preliminary data. Zander believes it is important to study similarities and differences between countries and between different places in the same country. This promotes insight into local and global factors.

“There are both surprising similarities and distinct differences. The historical background differs, it’s important to see what’s going on in school pupils’ heads and gain an understanding of the ways in which the society they live in influences them.”

More information about Sasuf.

Programme for the week:

Anneli Waara