Prof Malegapuru Makgoba has been elected vice-president of the International Council for Science. (Image: University of KwaZulu-Natal) MEDIA CONTACTS • Smita Maharaj Director: Communications Corporate Relations Division University of KwaZulu-Natal +27 31 260 4447RELATED ARTICLES • Space science thriving in South Africa • South African women lead the way in science • Pharma conference debuts in Africa • Home-grown nutrition research • Research centre for African oceans Wilma den HartighSouth Africa’s Prof Malegapuru Makgoba has been elected vice-president of the International Council for Science (ICSU), one of the most prestigious international bodies of its kind in the world.“I feel humbled and inspired to be given such an opportunity,” says Makgoba, vice-chancellor of the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN).The professor, who is a trained physician and an internationally recognised molecular immunologist, says his new position will give him significant exposure to other respected scientists and scientific disciplines.“What I find exciting about the work is meeting highly motivated and talented scientists from all over the world,” he says.Although his main area of interest has always been basic science and health, he says the position will allow him to explore new areas of science. “It will enable me to broaden my horizons in science. I think it is going to be an enriching experience,” he adds.His involvement with the ICSU will also promote South Africa’s participation in scientific matters of global concern. “As a country, we can play a major role in shaping the future of global science research collaboration and influence science policy,” he says.The International Council for ScienceUtilising science to find solutions to some of the world’s biggest challenges is a core focus of the council.The ICSU, which is one of the oldest non-governmental organisations in the world, was established to promote international scientific activity with the emphasis on research outcomes that will benefit humanity.The council has a global membership of national scientific bodies and international scientific unions.The organisation identifies issues of importance to science and society, provides an enabling research environment for scientists across all disciplines and promotes the participation of scientists in international research projects.Makgoba will serve as vice-president for three years. In this time, he is required to attend a minimum of two international ICSU meetings in Paris each year. He will also be involved in the planning of international interdisciplinary scientific programmes and a review of current global research.His position as vice-president is a voluntary service to the ICSU, and he will continue to perform his duties as vice-chancellor of the UKZN. “It is all voluntary work, but I look forward to it because it is giving back to science what science has given to me,” he says.Science to benefit peopleMakgoba has already attended his first meeting of the ICSU and the General Assembly has identified two new global scientific research projects.The “Health and Wellbeing in the Changing Environment” project will draw on the expertise of an interdisciplinary team of researchers to investigate the complex effects of urban and migratory patterns on human health and wellbeing.The outcomes of this particular project will be of major importance for individuals, policy formation and governments worldwide, as it looks at the growing urbanisation trend in the world.According to the UN, 50% of populations in developing countries will live in urban areas by 2020. Although Africa is predominantly rural, it is considered to be the continent with the fastest rate of urbanisation.By 2030 both Asia and Africa will have higher numbers of urban residents than any other major area of the world.UN figures quoted in a report of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reveal that 70% of the world’s population will live in urban areas by 2050, with the percentage rising to 86 for people in OECD countries.He says that urbanisation has far-reaching impacts on health, culture and how human beings define their identities.“It is a highly relevant topic in a changing world environment and raises many questions about urban wellbeing and health. The study will investigate the challenges and find potential solutions for the urbanisation trend,” he says.Another project on the agenda is the Earth Systems Sustainability Initiative, which will research the impact of global change on the earth, people and the capacity of the earth to sustain life on the planet.“The main focus of this ongoing research is on the unprecedented human-induced global change and the threat to society and human wellbeing worldwide. Climate change and biodiversity loss are just two examples,” he said in a statement.Contributions to scienceMakgoba has made other major contributions to the advancement of health and science in South Africa.His research as a molecular immunologist has made it possible to identify and understand cell surface molecules and genes important in the human immune system’s response.He is also a leading scientist in HIV vaccine research, he has served on the leadership team of the South African Aids Vaccine Initiative and he is the founding chair of the UNAids-World Health Organisation African Aids Vaccine Programme.Makgoba, who is also a member of the National Planning Commission and special advisor to the minister of science and technology, has received numerous awards, including fellowships at both the Imperial College Faculty of Medicine and the Royal College of Physicians of London.He is a founding member of the Academy of Science of South Africa and a foreign associate of the Institute of Medicine of the US Academies of Science.In addition to various accolades for his work, Makgoba was the 2011 recipient of the National Research Foundation President’s Lifetime Achievement award.
9 April South Africa’s excellence in wheelchair tennis was celebrated at The Ability Challenge at iThembelihe Lsen School in Primrose, Germiston on Tuesday, with some of the country’s wheelchair stars taking on top players and celebrities in a team competition. The iThembelihe Lsen School is one of the development schools earmarked by Wheelchair Tennis South Africa to introduce and develop the game.Wheelchair tennis stars World number two in the quads division Lucas Sithole, number seven in the women’s rankings KG Montjane, and men’s number 15 Evans Maripa were among those in action. TV and radio anchor Robert Marawa acted as master of ceremonies and and a festive vibe of music, dance and top-class tennis entertained the 400-strong crowd, which included former First Lady Zanele Mbeki. Four teams – Expresso Brews, e-Flava, Power of 5 and Ten-Spiration – battled for title honours in the challenge, with each team consisting of a celebrity, a wheelchair tennis player and two able-bodied players.Winning team The winning team was Ten-Spiration, the SABC Morning Live team, which featured anchor Vaylen Kirtley, wheelchair tennis star Leon Els, Danie Visser – formerly a world number one in doubles – and tennis professional Michelle Sammons. They defeated the team of Expresso Brews – presenter Adrian Hogan, professional coach Holger Losch, Evans Maripa and professional player Madrie Le Roux – 4-3 in a thrilling final. Morning Live presenter Vaylen Kirtley said she was happy to have won the title with her team and was honoured to be part of the event. “What a great initiative and hats off to Airports Company South Africa and Wheelchair Tennis South Africa for putting the challenge together,” she said afterwards. “This sets the tone for the forthcoming Gauteng and SA Open events, which are sure to be a great success.”‘A shining example’ South African Davis Cup captain John-Laffnie de Jager, part of the Power of 5 team, said he felt honoured to be part of the day. “Wheelchair tennis in our country is a shining example of what a sporting code needs to do to encourage interest and participation,” he said. “The atmosphere was unbelievable and what great fun was had by all. I’ll be back, if invited again.” DJ Milkshake, another member of the Power of 5 team, was equally enthusiastic about the day. “That was really wicked! What a cool day, and I am real blessed to be part of it. Just a pity my team didn’t smack it,” he enthused. ‘This is so good for the game’ Former ATP professional and Davis Cup player Jeff Coetzee, who turned out for e- Flava team, said the Challenge was inspirational. “Tennis is such a fun loving sport, the game of a life time, and the game of love. Today we had tons of fun, saw players and fans of all ages, and everyone just loved the day. This is so good for the game. What tennis needs is more Ability Challenges,” he reckoned Members of South Africa’s Fed Cup squad – Natalie Grandin, Madrie Le Roux, Natasha Fourouclas and Michelle Sammons – also participated in the Challenge.‘Committed Unathi Batyashe of Airports Company South Africa, the sponsors of the event and of the two big forthcoming international wheelchair tennis tournaments, commented: “Disabled sport is globally becoming more recognised and Airports Company South Africa have earmarked wheelchair tennis as the disability code they are committed to supporting. “We were excited and delighted to have exposed more people to wheelchair tennis and to our top wheelchair players at the Ability Challenge. “We believe through the event more people appreciated the skills and performances of these players by watching them in action at iThembelihe Lsen School.” SAinfo reporter
Jamaica’s current account deficit on the Balance of Payments narrowed by US$221 million to 12.6 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2012/13. The ratio was an improvement over the 13.7 per cent of GDP recorded in 2011/12. “This is moving in the right direction as we move towards paying our way in the world instead of borrowing to meet our current demands,” said Minister of Finance and Planning, Dr. the Hon. Peter Phillips. The Finance Minister was opening the 2013/14 Budget debate in the House of Representatives on Thursday, April 18, under the theme: ‘Restoring Hope – Expanding Opportunity’. He informed that since January 2013, production and exports of alumina from Windalco’s plant at Ewarton have been returning to full capacity. “On this basis, gross export earnings are slated to rise by US$65 million on an annualised basis. This will contribute to some improvement in the deficit in our balance of trade and current account deficit,” Dr. Phillips said. He added that the significant impact of this turnaround at Ewarton demonstrates the critical importance of the recovery of the bauxite industry on the economy, and especially on the balance of payments. He further noted that it is essential that the energy systems of the plants that are closed be transformed if the industry is to be made competitive. He informed that Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, Hon. Phillip Paulwell, will address these issues in his presentation in the Budget Debate. As it relates to the Net International Reserves (NIR), Dr. Phillips mentioned that for fiscal year 2012/13 the NIR closed at US$824.3 million with gross international reserves a little over US$1.7 billion. Gross reserves represent the total amount of foreign currency resources at the disposal of the Bank of Jamaica. Dr. Phillips explained that the deterioration in reserves during the year resulted from the absence of official inflows, due to the abandonment of the previous International Monetary Fund agreement in 2011. By Latonya Linton, JIS Reporter