South–South collaborative opportunities took centre stage during a recent visit by 25 vice-chancellors from the Brazilian Association of Rectors of State and Municipal Universities (ABRUEM) to the University of Cape Town (UCT).
A recent visit by several Brazilian universities, under the auspices of ABRUEM, highlighted the history of collaborative efforts that UCT has maintained with various universities in the region. The director of UCT’s International Office, Dr Quinton Johnson, and his staff arranged the engagement, which was hosted on Friday, 25 August, that brought together several senior executives, academics, and administrators from different state universities in Brazil.
The purpose of the visit was threefold. It aimed to promote global cooperation and discuss possibilities to build new and deepen existing academic collaborations, foster relations between the higher education systems of Brazil and South Africa, while discussing opportunities that could lead to the development of common research and projects with UCT.
“Academics at UCT have co-authored a total of more than 2 600 publications with five Brazilian universities.”
Reflecting on these shared efforts in his welcoming address, Vice-Chancellor interim Emeritus Professor Daya Reddy said: “UCT is very proud of our history of relationships with Brazilian universities. Academics at UCT have co-authored … more than 2 600 publications with five Brazilian universities.” These are: Universidade de São Paulo, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Universidade Federal de Juiz de Fora, Universidade Federal de São João del-Rei, and Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul. UCT currently has active contracts with an additional nine universities.
ABRUEM is one of the most important higher education associations in Brazil and Latin America. Acting directly in 22 provinces of Brazil, through its 46 partner universities, ABRUEM intends to permanently deepen the discussion of themes relevant to the higher education sector.
Strengthening South–South collaborations
Since 2015, the UCT’s Knowledge Translation Unit (KTU) in the Department of Medicine has been working with the Primary Healthcare Department in Florianópolis who piloted the Practical Approach to Care Kit (PACK) in Brazil. PACK is a health care system that strengthens interventions that simplify, standardise and optimise the delivery of primary care. The latest success of this collaboration is the establishment of a Brazilian KTU, known as Unidade de tradução de conhecimento (UTC) in collaboration with the UCT KTU. This unit’s objective is to support the scale up of PACK throughout Brazil to strengthen the quality of primary care provided. The relationship between UCT and KTU is characterised by bi-directional learning and sharing of innovation underpinned by very similar public sector primary care systems which form the first point of contact with health services for most people in both countries.
Professor Sue Harrison, the deputy vice-chancellor for Research and Internationalisation at UCT, gave an overview of the university’s research ecosystem. She offered specific emphasis on its commitment to Vision 2030, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the African Union’s (AU) Agenda 2063. Her presentation also highlighted possible opportunities for collaboration between UCT and the Brazilian universities represented by the visiting delegation.
“We have many common threads with universities in Brazil. Our work in non-communicable diseases, commerce, biodiversity, carbon-neutral fuels, and minerals are all areas in which [South Africa] and [Brazil] are very well known and possibly where we can lead globally between us,” said Professor Harrison.
South Africa and Brazil share a mutual concern for addressing the prevalent issues found in the Global South, such as poverty, inequality, non-communicable diseases, urban growth, sexual and gender-based violence, among others. These challenges, akin to climate change, are also on the rise in the Global North.
Delivering his remarks in Portuguese, Professor Odilon Máximo de Morais, ABRUEM’s president, mentioned that their journey to South Africa, which fortuitously coincided with the recent BRICS Summit held in the country, highlighted the importance of their association’s commitment to strengthening connections with South African universities. He further emphasised that the delegation’s visit to UCT would unlock prospects for their universities to foster and exchange academic knowledge, cultural insights, values, and languages.
Reflecting on the importance of this visit, the consul general of Brazil in Cape Town, Fernando Apparicio da Silva, said, “Taking into account that there are a lot of commonalities between Brazil and South Africa, we think that by working together, we will be able not only to advance several important fields of knowledge but also to create more inclusive, just and prosperous societies in our countries.”
He added: “We really hope that this engagement will allow both sides to establish fruitful relationships and enhance what we call the South–South cooperation.”
This was a sentiment shared by Emeritus Professor Reddy: “Together [UCT and ABRUEM] have a great deal to offer the world, including the Global North, in terms of research and knowledge creation.”
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