A Path towards South Africa

“Imagine future Africa!” – These lines still echo remembering the opening ceremony of the newly established campus “Future Africa” in Pretoria. 500 people from different countries, backgrounds and contexts. Shouting these three words with full voice, to celebrate. A ceremony for the establishment of the Future Africa Campus. A research centre at Pretoria University, which aims to bring together different practitioners and researchers to address the challenges of Africa and the world. It felt inspiring to participate, to have the opportunity and explore the cultural richness that was brought in this moment to discuss the urgency of inter- and transdisciplinary research in the context of Africa and the need for collaboration. But let´s look back. In late 2018, the Robert Bosch Stiftung invited us scholars of “Processes of Sustainability Transformation” at Leuphana University to the launch of the Future Africa Campus at Pretoria University. We were asked to attend a two-day “Transdisciplinary Research Workshop” to bring in expertise on processes of sustainability transformation and inter- and transdisciplinary sustainability research. Together with two cohort meetings of the “African Science Leadership Programme” and another “Science Advice for Policy” workshop, it complimented a program leading towards the grant launch of the campus. An opening that aimed at what the centre was built for: bringing together different expertise from diverse countries and fields to collaboratively work through inter- and transdisciplinary research practices for the future of Africa. We students in Germany considered individually if participating would be feasible. Organizational and ethical questions were raised: is it justifiable for sustainability researchers to travel to the other end of the world for a three-day excursion? Does it fit into the individual research context; keeping in mind, that time is sparse when writing a PhD in 3-years´ time? We started a dialogue with the Robert Bosch Stiftung and found a common ground in considerations and ideas. A discussion emerged on transforming the three day excursion into a research road trip to be able to connect and reach out to other universities and institutes in South Africa that have similar goals and research interests on Processes of Sustainability Transformation. Little by little, the idea became reality and connections were established to researchers and institutes through colleagues and conferences. A colourful potpourri of different formats, meetings, and workshops evolved and was set out to be realized in a two-week road trip, to avoid inland flying. At last, in the end of March 2019, six scholars of “Processes of Sustainability Transformation” from Leuphana University attended the launch of the Future Africa Campus in Pretoria  and experienced the inspiring atmosphere that emerges from this place. After intensive discussions and celebrations, we followed the road down to Makhana (Grahamstown) to visit the “Environmental Learning Research Centre” at Rhodes University in Grahamstown. We took the Garden Route to experience the beautiful ocean views and stunning landscapes quickly arriving in Stellenbosch. A small town surrounded by great mountains and beautiful wine yards. We attended meetings with the “Sustainability Institute” and the “Institute for Complex Systems in Transition” both associated with the University of Stellenbosch. Finally, Cape Town welcomed us as final destination through stunning Table Mountain-views and the multi-cultural richness. Here, we had the chance to get to know the “African Climate & Development Institute” of Cape Town University and designers from the “D-School”. The following pages show the diversity of experiences and rich cultural moments that characterized the remarkable trip and helped to reflect on the multiple questions that we raised at the beginning of this journey.

Felix Beyers

Felix graduated in the summer 2017 with a Master of Science at Lund University in the International Master Programme in Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science. During his Master thesis he intensified his interest in sustainability politics and policies. As part of the Robert Bosch Research Group he focuses on the textile and clothing industry and how to create politics and policies for a wider transformation for sustainability. Learn more about Felix's PhD project!

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