Patrice Motsepe, a mining tycoon from South Africa, and the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) have teamed together to establish a postdoctoral fellowship program that would fund innovation and research in the areas of water, energy, and digitalization.
Motsepe, a Wits alumnus and the founder and executive chairman of African Rainbow Minerals (ARM) stated that the goal of the program is to cultivate the advanced skills required to tackle South Africa’s problems with energy scarcity, water scarcity, and a skills gap in digitalization.
In his remarks, “Collaborating with South African higher education institutions is essential to our quest for knowledge, innovation, skills, and sustainable development.” “Public-private partnerships are essential for tackling the environmental and socioeconomic issues that our nation and communities face.”
“Partnering with South African institutions of higher learning is paramount in our pursuit of knowledge, innovation, skills, and sustainable development,” he said. “Public-private partnerships are crucial in addressing the socio-economic and environmental challenges confronting our communities and country.”
ARM has pledged an endowment of R20 million (approximately $1 million) for the program, which will be invested in perpetuity. The profits from this investment will be used to fund research at Wits’ Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment.
The program, according to Bizcommunity, will support a new cohort of postdoctoral fellows specializing in water resource management, digitalization, and the just energy transition.
The program will also benefit the Wits University Mining Precinct which houses several research entities including the School of Mining Engineering and the School of Electrical and Information Engineering, and is a hub for mining innovation and collaboration.
The Chamber of Mines Building on the Braamfontein West Campus will be renamed the Wits ARM Building as part of the partnership. This structure was built in 1939 and is and which is an important part of Wits University’s academic and research infrastructure.
Wits University’s vice-chancellor and principal, Professor Zeblon Vilakazi, welcomed the collaboration and praised Motsepe’s vision and generosity. He stated that the investment will enable Wits University to make a significant difference in developing the critical skills and research required to ensure the mining industry’s long-term sustainability.
“We recognize the importance of digital transformation in the mining industry, and the necessity to develop the critical skills needed to advance our economy,” the minister said. “This investment is firmly located in the Wits University Mining Precinct and dovetails with our broader initiatives in quantum computing, fintech and innovation.”
The collaboration between ARM and Wits University is one of several initiatives undertaken by Motsepe to support education and development in South Africa. He is also the founder of the Motsepe Foundation, which has donated billions of rands to various causes, including health, education, sports, arts, and entrepreneurship.
Motsepe, who is one of the richest people in Africa and the first black billionaire in South Africa, has also signed the Giving Pledge, a commitment by the world’s wealthiest individuals and families to dedicate the majority of their wealth to philanthropy.
The program, which is set to begin in 2024, will initially support 10 postdoctoral fellows per year. Academic excellence, research potential, and alignment with the program’s objectives will be used to select the fellows. They will also be mentored, given networking opportunities, and exposed to best practices in the industry.
The program is intended to create a pipeline of future critical skills that will meet ARM’s and the mining industry’s future business needs. ARM CEO Phillip Tobias stated that the company is committed to addressing critical challenges in water, energy, and digitalization that affect both their business and the country.
“The goal of this initiative is to develop a pipeline of future critical skills that will meet future business needs.” “We believe that by working together, we can make a significant impact and leave a lasting legacy that will provide innovative and sustainable solutions that will benefit not only the mining industry but also the broader South African society,” he said.
The program is also expected to boost Wits university’s reputation and visibility as a leading institution of higher learning and research in Africa and around the world. Professor Majozi, dean of the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment, stated that the program will highlight the faculty’s excellence and relevance in addressing 21st-century pressing issues.
The program illustrates the importance of collaboration between the public and private sectors in advancing skill development, innovation, and long-term growth, and shows Motsepe’s commitment and leadership as an advocate for education and development in Africa.