DAAD South Africa Conference

A group image of students.
© DAAD Südafrika

The DAAD Information Centre Johannesburg invites DAAD In-Country/In-Region Scholarship holders in Southern Africa to take part in a networking conference in South Africa each year. The conference provides the  scholarships holders a platform for exchange, discussion and networking and the opportunity to enhance and sharpen various skills needed in higher education through high-quality workshops.

The DAAD South Africa Conference is hosted in a different South African city each year and has been running for the last 8 years. DAAD scholarship holders in Southern Africa who hold the

for their Master or PhD degree at a South Africa university are eligibile to take part in the conference for a weekend of discussion, networking and further education.

The conference, centered each year around an overarching and cross-disciplinary theme, offers the scholarship holders the opportunity to refine various skills in high-quality workshops in areas such as academic writing, presentation strategies and intercultural communication, as well as a platform for discussion around current and relevant topics in higher education.

The 11th DAAD South Africa Conference took place in Gqeberha from 15 – 18 September 2022. Titled ‘Digitalisation: support or restriction?’, the conference considered the many facets of Digitalisation within Academia. The last few years living with a pandemic have taught us many lessons about the importance of digitalisation, but has also highlighted the discrepancies in access, and shortfalls in implementation.

So, what has digitalisation meant for us all?  This is the question we tried to answer over the course of the weekend. Key-Notes, Workshops, Alumni speakers, and open discussions with our In-Country/In-Region scholarship holders allowed us to examine this issue from different perspectives and begin thinking of what the future of digitalisation may look like, particularly for young Academics on the Continent.

We chatted, networked, and swopped ideas with fellow DAAD scholarship holders from 14 African countries for three days. All of these young academics are studying selected Masters and PhD programmes at Universities in South-Africa, Malawi and Namibia. While some may have known each other from the lecture halls, for most of us it was a first meeting and we had to kick it off in style with an opening reception and some special guests. Dr Thandi Mgwebi, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Innovation and Internationalisation at Nelson Mandela University and Mr Nico Stucken, the Honorary Consul of the Federal Republic of Germany in Gqeberha, shared some welcoming words with our 60 scholarship holders, partners and friends and kicked off what was to be a wonderful evening getting to know each other over a shared meal and a checkered dance floor.

In order to be able to support specific career paths, academics from DAAD-funded projects and partner institutions in South-Africa were invited as facilitators for workshops, academic counselling, and open discussion. In his Key-Note titled “Critical Success Factors in the Advancement of Digitalisation on the African Continent” Dr Raymond van Diemel, military university educator at the South African Military Academy who also happens to be DAAD Alumni, gave insights into the roles of digitalisation in academia and specifically how digitalisation can be used as a tool for both good and evil. Opening the floor to our guests and scholarship holders we began to share ideas and solutions and prepare for our first Academic Workshops themed around this important global issue.

The Workshop DIGI-FACE: A digital resource for post-graduates and academic, presented by Dr Elmien Waring, showcased the DAAD-funded platform developed by the HAW Kehl, which enables cooperation between the German-African specialist centers and serves as a platform for quality higher education research, teaching and networking through digital adoption. 3D Scanning for Additive Manufacturing, by offered the scholarship holders access to current Technology which can influence and support global research in an interdisciplinary manner. A third workshop on the day, Bridging the technology gender gap: promises, challenges, and opportunities by Dr Hlengiwe Ndlovu opened the discussion around the technological gender gap and socio-political issues faced by and through digitalisation. While the move towards the 4IR promises to bridge the gender gap through digitalization, the Covid 19 global pandemic has exposed the widening (gender) inequalities, especially in the global south. Promises, challenges and opportunities presented by technological advancement in the global south were put on the table for discussion and opened some eyes to the role academics having in bridging this gap not only in the labs but also out in the streets.

To stretch our legs after an intense start to the Conference, the DAAD team took our scholarship holders on a field trip to visit Masifunde Learner Development NGO in Walmer Township. Taken on a tour through one of the only communities to resist Apartheids Forced Removals we were shown the various development and learner centres run by Masifunde. Here more than 450 youths from Walmer-Township are provided with educational support in a holistic and sustainable manner. Educational interventions include academic support, social assistance, life skills training and extra-curricular activities in the arts, media and sports. We were treated to a performance by the Masifunde Choir, who just this year participated at the Grahamstown Art Festival, took a look through their Exhibition and popped into the Art studio, watched the Musical “Bhuti is the beast”, and bought some hand-crafted jewellery before rushing off for dinner and some awe inspired conversations over melting ice-cream and waffles.

Saturday was a full day of academics with four workshops and a DAAD presentation on Research Opportunities in Germany. The role of social media in research: pitfalls and possibilities presented by Dr Shaun Welman, gave us all insight into how we as academics can utilise social media in our academic work and highlighted some important pitfalls to consider in our personal and professional use of these platforms. Our partner for this year’s conference, Nelson Mandela University, offered a workshop Digitalisation and Internationalisation, presented by Kanego Mokgosi from the NMU International Office. Two practical workshops, Digitilisation and Entrepreneurship by Dr Sasha Boucher (another DAAD Alumni) and So lets turn that thesis/dissertation into a journal article or a book by Solani Ngobeni, presented our academics with opportunities both within and beyond the academic field. Academia is its own community with strict rules and systems, and as anyone who has published will know, is sometimes a difficult space to navigate. But with some key insights into publishing and the possibility presented that you can use what you have learnt to become an Entrepreneur, we left feeling a little more confident in wherever our journey may take us.

Our final day on the coast was complemented with presentations by DAAD and Germany Alumni who shared their experiences as scholarship holders and academics in Germany. These insightful and often eye-opening experiences are always a highlight of the Conference and show our young academics the many different opportunities which such experiences can open for them. With an experienced academic and beloved DAAD Alumni, Dr Raymond van Diemel, a newly minted young Senior Lecturer, Dr Hlengiwe Ndlovu (you remember them from earlier in the programme?), a previous DAAD In-Country scholarship holder who attended this conference in 2019, Dr Sasha Boucher, a University Director, Dr Nomakwezi Mzilikazi, and the longest standing Conference participant (5 years as a special guest) and the President of the DAAD Alumni Association South Africa, Dr Sumita Ramgareeb, we really get a feel for the many different paths we can be taken down and the networks which are available to us as DAAD affiliates. It is indeed a privilege for the DAAD to be able to bring together all of these people under one roof and share in a network which will support innovation and excellence across Africa and over the pond.

And with that, not a goodbye but see you again!

The DAAD Scholarship Conference 2022 – it is the organizers hope – has contributed to this conversation and facilitated opportunities for a coming together of different ideas and solutions to benefit future collaboration and excellence on the African Continent.

Author: Lynn Allemann

Conceptualised and carried out by the DAAD Information Centre Johannesburg, South Africa.  Financed by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) 

The 10th DAAD South Africa Conference took place virtually from 28 – 30 October 2021. Titled ‘International Research: basic foundations for fair cooperation’, the conference considered the many facets of international research collaboration. An open letter to international funding organisations in Africa published in Nature in mid-April 2021 is a testament to the topic’s current relevance and many dimensions.

Aliou Fousseni from Benin and Emmanuel Oje from Nigeria travelled to the University of Lilongwe, Malawi to complete their PhD studies in Agricultural Sciences. The DAAD funded InRegion-Scholarship for the PhD programme in Aquaculture and Fisheries Sciences offers excellent research opportunities, not only because of its proximity to the picturesque lake Malawi – the most biodiverse lake on earth.

„The quality of your own research improves in exchange with other researchers and with the chance for shared expertise”, says Emmanuel Oje. He often meets up with his fellow scholarship holders from Nigeria, Tanzania, Zambia, the Congo, and of course Malawi. Together they are building a scientific Network which will continue to benefit and support them into the future.

Emmanuel enthusiastically accepted the invitation to the DAAD Johannesburg Information Centres virtual Scholarship-holders Conference. “International collaborations and networks enable us to discuss current research and their contributions to the development of African countries”, said Aliou Fousseni when asked about his motivation for accepting the invitation. His belief is that this is especially important in Africa where scientific research is often still in its teething phase.

Aliou and Emmanuel chatted, networked, and swopped ideas with fellow DAAD scholarship holders from 10 African countries for two days at virtual coffee-tables and during Workshops. Almost all of these young academics are studying selected Masters and PhD programmes in South-Africa, Malawi and Namibia. Scientists from Germany and Sub-Sahara Africa added to the already impressive list of nationalities present by contributing Workshops or sharing their experiences and advice as Alumni.

In order to be able to support specific career paths, academics from DAAD-funded projects in Africa were selected as facilitators for the workshops and for academic councelling. In her Key-Note, Dr Mari Bieri gave insights into a project that has been funded for many years, the Science Partnerships for the Adaption to Complex Earth System Processes in the Region of Southern Africa (SPACES). The perception of European and African researchers regarding their contributions and role in steering of the project shows clear differences even though the basis of fair cooperation was deliberately laid out in the project. A lot can be learned from the data that has now been collected. This is confirmed by the respondent Divinia Jithoo from Durban University of Technology who in her PhD examines the African perspective on international scientific cooperation.

During their workshops; Artificial Intelligence meets Sustainability and Beyond Googling: More sophisticated ways to research the state of the art Prof. Thomas Clemen (HAW Hamburg) and PD Dr. Jussi Baade (University of Jena) offered the scholarship holders access to current Technology which can influence and support global research in an interdisciplinary manner. The participants took a look into coding applications with Prof Jean Greyling (Nelson Mandela University) in his workshop: Unplugged Coding and at the same time got to know the DAAD-funded project Yields of Evocative Entrepreneurial Approaches on Environment and Society (YEEES).

The team from the DAAD-funded Hub for Education presented on ICT for Sustainability (HEDIS) and contributed in rounding out this topic. Prof. Jorge Marx Gomez (University of Oldenburg), Prof. Brenda Scholz (Nelson Mandela University) and their colleagues are a well-oiled team that hold popular summer schools for German and African students in the Cape region every year. The scholarship holders also discovered a new ICT application with DigiFace, a DAAD-funded platform developed by the HAW Kehl, which enables cooperation between the German-African specialist centers and, in the future, other DAAD-funded projects on the African continent. On this day, Ruth Knoblich, DAAD Lecturer at the University of the Western Cape, and her colleague Shamiso Mandiomo, won many new DAAD-scholarship holders for this project.

Prof Sarah Darkwa (University of Cape Coast) who trains young scientists at the DAAD-funded SDG Graduate School Performing Sustainability, enriched the scholarship conference with her practice-oriented workshop Getting Published. For those who still have their doctorate ahead of them, DAAD alumnus Dr. Solomon Derese (University of Nairobi), outlined how a research proposal in the natural sciences should be structured and developed.

Finally, an EU-funded project offered a platform for discussion that adds on to the topic of the conference: Fair Cooperation in International Research – a decolonial take. Prof. Cornelius Hagenmeier (University of the Free State) alongside Dr. Lavern Samuels, Dr. Savo Heleta and Divina Jithoo (all Durban University of Technology) are important actors in the internationalization of South African universities, shaping national and local strategies for cooperation.

The conference program framed by an interactive artistic contribution encouraged the discussion with scholarship holders and guests about inclusion and fairness. Artist Issa Wessels created a digital work of art in collaboration with participants and guests that everyone could take home with them at the end to hopefully think further on the foundations for Fair cooperation.

“Addressing science and research matters in an international platform with the incorporation of sharing of knowledge, skills and expertise internationally”– that’s what fair international cooperation means to Leah Mwendwa from Kenya who is completing her Masters at Stellenbosch University.

And Poojah Jawallapersand adds to it „The globalisation of research through funding and collaborative efforts between countries can bridge cultural and language barriers”.

The DAAD Scholarship Conference 2021 – it is the organizers hope – has contributed to this conversation and facilitated opportunities for a coming together of different ideas and solutions to benefit future collaboration.

Author: Dr Anja Hallacker, Lynn Allemann

Conceptualised and carried out by the DAAD Information Centre Johannesburg, South Africa. Financed by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)

The 9th DAAD South Africa Conference took place in Johannesburg, South Africa from 5 – 8 September 2019. DAAD scholarship holders in South Africa were invited to take part in a weekend of networking and training together with the DAAD Information Centre Johannesburg Team and colleagues from the DAAD head office in Bonn, Germany. The workshops on offer and the inputs from the panellists and key-note speaker were all centred around Science Communication, which served as overarching topic for the conference.

This year, for only the second time in the conference’s nine-year history, both South African scholarship holders as well as scholarship holders from other Sub-Saharan African countries at South African universities were invited to take part the conference. This is in line with the In-Country/In-Region Programme Sub-Saharan Africa’s strategy to promote academic exchange between and sustainable capacity development in Sub-Saharan African Countries. More than 15 Sub-Saharan African countries were represented among the conference participants this year.

On Thursday, 5 September, the conference participants received information on various DAAD funding opportunities that they have access to with their In-Country/In-Region scholarships as well as other standard DAAD funding opportunities, after which they dressed in beautiful fashion and were whisked away to rooftop venue in Braamfontein for the Welcome Reception.

On Friday, 6 September, Prof. Salim Vally, the Director of the Centre for Education Rights and Transformation at the University of Johannesburg, offered an insightful look into science communication, research’s place in the modern world and the university’s autonomy in his key-note speech, to all of the conference participants’ enrichment and pleasure. A diverse panel continued the discussion together with the conference participants on Saturday, 7 September. Prof. Jan Botha from the Centre for Research on Evaluation, Science and Technology at the University of Stellenbosch, Prof. Pamela Dube, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of the Western Cape, Michael Ellis, the Manager of Science Communication at the National Research Foundation (NRF), and Faith Dlamini from the South African Cities Network all delivered keen insights surrounding this significant topic in higher education.

On Friday and Saturday, the conference participants had the opportunity to attend full-day workshops. On offer were Presentation Skills offered by Dr Samia Chasi, Academic Authorship by Prof. Jan Botha, Learn German by Roma Gendera and Ann-Christin Kiehl, and PhD Proposal Writing offered by Dr Dana Marks and Dr Alex Wafer on Friday and Saturday, respectively. The DAAD Information Centre Johannesburg is confident that the training the conference participants received over these two days has enriched their studies and research considerably.

We would like to thank all our guests and participants for this exciting weekend once more. Nothing affords us greater pleasure than to meet our scholarship holders in person and, together with them, change the world by exchange!

More photos from the conference can be viewed here.

Over the weekend of the 7th of September, the DAAD South Africa team, its guest and in-country scholarship holders came together for the 8th annual DAAD South Africa Conference. “Be International!” served as theme for the conference and so internationalisation and decolonisation in South African higher education were at the centre of the discussions and workshops that took place over the weekend.

The scholarship holders, coming from all corners of South Africa, arrived at the Garden Court Marine Parade Hotel in Durban on Friday afternoon where they were greeted with a lunch and a welcome bag for the weekend. They quickly got to know one another over the lunch and soon went to their rooms to prepare for the Welcome Reception.

The Welcome Reception took place on Friday evening in uShaka Marine World’s Aquarium where the DAAD South Africa Team and its guests enjoyed a night of dancing, joy and laughter. The Welcome Reception in this most extraordinary of settings proved to be the perfect ice breaker for the two days of intensive discussions and engagement that were to follow.

Over Saturday and Sunday, the participants forged further networks and connections with each other through active engagement in workshops and other activities. Mr Umesh Bawa delivered an illuminating speech on decolonisation in South African Higher education on Saturday morning, introducing the key topic for the weekend: how do internationalisation and decolonisation, two very important processes currently taking place in South African higher education, work together? Later that day the participants attended exciting workshops designed to provide them with interpersonal as well as practical research skills. Dr Shamim Bodhanya introduced his exciting work surrounding Systems Thinking in Higher Education while Nisha Ramlutchman and Dr Dayaneethie Veerasamy worked with the participants on social skills in Intercultural Communication. Dr Nyna Amin engaged with the participants on their paper- and abstract-writing skills in Pre-Conference Preparation and Dr Thakane Ntholi rounded off the workshops with her Science Slam workshop.

In between the discussion in the morning and workshops in the afternoon, Tebogo Makhubela and Maserame Cleopatra Mokhaneli were kind enough to share their research experiences in Germany with the rest of the participants, encouraging them to also apply for a short-term research visit in Germany that is open to all DAAD-NRF scholarship holders.

We kicked off Sunday with a panel discussion on internationalisation in South African higher education, continuing the conversation that Mr Umesh Bawa had so skilfully initiated on Saturday. Dr Lavern Samuels, director of Internationalisation at the Durban University of Technology, Dr Nomakwezi Mzilikazi, director of Research Management at Nelson Mandela University and Dr Sepo Hachigonta, director of Strategy, Planning and Partnerships at the National Research Foundation shared their experience and expertise surrounding this much debated topic with the audience and provided intuitive possible solutions for the challenges still facing South African higher education today.

After the panel discussion the DAAD South Africa Team and its guests had the pleasure to participate in a Science Slam competition, a platform used to communicate science and research to a non-expert audience. A few brave scholarship holders signed up for the workshop and worked with Dr Thakane Ntholi throughout Saturday evening to perfect their presentations. They were tasked with presenting their research in an innovative and creative way but not to the undermine the integrity of the science of their research – a rather difficult task. In the end, Mandi Hamman walked away with the first prize, as voted for by the audience, having presented an insightful, creative and concise overview of her research on substance abuse in audio-visual format. Congratulations once more!

The DAAD South Africa Team regards it as the highest honour to meet DAAD scholarship holders and to engage with them. The participants never fail to show interest, excitement and active involvement throughout the weekend – and this year was no different. We would like to thank all of our guests and scholarship holders for this wonderful weekend by the sea!

View more photos by Anwyll de Leeuw from the conference here.

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