Named after a freedom fighter who spoke up for science and tech, a group of African and international research funders under the OR Tambo Africa Research Chairs Initiative announced Prof Gerald Misinzo and his institution Sokoine University of Agriculture as one of the initiative’s first ten individual research chair holders and host institutions.
The 10 chairs, based in seven African countries, will share funding worth about US $15 million in total to carry out research and train young scientists in priority areas chosen to reflect the continent’s development priorities. The chairs are funded through a partnership between South Africa’s National Research Foundation (NRF) and the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), Adelaide Tambo Foundation, Canada’s International Development Research Centre(IDRC), and seven councils of the Science Granting Councils Initiative in Sub-Saharan Africa(SGCI), including the Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH).
Professor Misinzo’s Professorial Research Chair will focus on viral epidemics of short-cycle animal stocks and address food security.
Professor Misinzo aims to develop innovative approaches through science and technology driven by genomics, molecular biology and analytical epidemiology in order to improve the risk management of infectious diseases in the ecosystems of Africa.
He seeks to contribute to enhancing national disease surveillance, reporting, transparency and accountability to all users of health data, including those affected by epidemics at the community level. The focus at the community level is driven by the need to understand how women, in particular, who are the most active small scale farmers of short-cycle animal stocks in Tanzania, can better mitigate the effects of these viral epidemics on their livestock.
The Chair will be integrated into the SACIDS Foundation for One Health, an institute of Sokoine University of Agriculture on behalf of member institutions from the SADC region that founded SACIDS in 2008, initially as a regional programme, until 2018 when it was transformed into its current status. His genomics expertise will be core for the overall SACIDS research programme that addresses One Health genomics of viral epidemics and antimicrobial resistance both in humans and animals. He will collaborate with the University of Zambia (Zambia), Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Malawi), University of the Free State (South Africa), the Royal Veterinary College (UK), the Pirbright Institute (UK), Lancaster University (UK), University of Gent (Belgium), Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (Sweden) and the Animal Health Research Centre (Spain).
What are Research Chairs?
Research Chairs are normally granted in recognition of individual leadership and talent and recognise the commitment of universities to supporting high-quality research. Chairs foster prestige and visibility for individuals to catalyse expertise in a given area and train the next generation of scholars, as well as attract and retain the best research talent at a given institution. Chair holders are expected to meet set targets for staff development, and additional funds are provided for supporting post-doctoral and postgraduate students under the supervision of the respective Chair holders. Such research hubs have a catalytic impact on the development of research infrastructure in host countries; as well as contribute to knowledge production and high-end skills in alignment with the African Union Agenda 2063 and the Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa (STISA 2024).
Canada’s pioneering Canada Research Chairs programme began in 1997 and has funded almost 2000 research chairs to date. The successful South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI) was established in 2006, as a strategic intervention of the South African government to attract and retain excellence in research and innovation at South African public universities, Research Councils and National Research Facilities.
The work of the research chair aligns well with the Tanzania National Vision 2025, African Union Agenda 2063 and Sustainable Development Goals of the UN. All these aspire at achieving a high-quality livelihood and well-being of our people. Improving livestock health will lead to poverty alleviation, zero hunger, good health and well-being, and reduced gender and community inequalities. And that is the Africa we want
– Professor Misinzo
In particular, the SARChI funding instrument is aimed at increasing scientific research capacity through the development of human capacity and stimulating the generation of new knowledge. SARChI is also intended to support and advance transformation of South African society in terms of demographics and the knowledge economy, so that there is equitable and inclusive participation in the generation of knowledge and the generation of such knowledge translates into socio-economic benefits. The implementation of ORTARChI is aligned to SARChI, providing a platform for sharing of experiences and further collaborations amongst top researchers on the continent.