Winston Nxumalo, who is one of the recipients of the Young Scientists Exchange Programme (YSEP), says he hopes to not only engage in writing research but ultimately ensure that the research yields economic fruit.
“We hope that whatever research we will be working on, it will lead to innovation and perhaps something commercial that will benefit everyone and create jobs,” said Nxumalo from the University of Limpopo.
The exchange programme is part of a five-year agreement that was signed by the South African Department of Science and Technology and the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology in 2017 to give young researchers from both countries an opportunity to share knowledge and develop skills.
Through the programme, Nxumalo and six other young scientists will leave South Africa for China as part of the first batch South Africa-China YSEP.
The programme will promote the development of scientists, scholars and researchers, focusing on various scientific fields, including biotechnology, advanced manufacturing, ICT systems, green technologies, the exploitation of mineral resources, and space science and astronomy.
Speaking at a farewell ceremony held at the Chinese Embassy in Pretoria, Lizelle van Dyk, from the University of the Witwatersrand, said she sees this as an opportunity to learn.
“I see this as a growth opportunity for me on personal and professional level. I believe that I have much to learn.
“The Wuhan Institute of Technology is well known for technology development and my research project in the recovery of phosphorus from water also holds much potential for China and South Africa,” said Van Dyk.
On a personal level, Van Dyk said she is excited to be exposed to the Chinese culture, its food and many beautiful places that she has only seen on photos.
“On my to do list is to see the Great Wall of China, doing scuba diving in the lake that contains a submerged part of the Great Wall of China and to learn basic Mandarin and perhaps take some Chinese cooking lessons,” she said.
The YSEP is jointly funded with the aim of cultivating future leading scientists by promoting the exchange of researchers between research institutes, universities and enterprises in an effort to advance research and development, and produce academic papers, new patents and innovative products.
The majority of the successful students, selected through a call issued by the National Research Foundation earlier this year, come from historically disadvantaged institutions.
Other students are Nokuthula Peace Mchunu from the Durban University of Technology, Ndanduleni Lesley Lethole, Peace Prince Mkhonto and and Wynston Ray Woodenber and Anthony Walters University of KwaZulu-Natal.
They will spend up to 12 months at universities across China – Tianjin University of Science and Technology, Wuhan Institute of Technology, Wuhan University Beijing, the Beijing General Research Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, Zhejiang Sci-Tech University Tongji, the National Astronomical Observatories of China and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
The Department of Science and Technology Acting Director-General Daan Du Toit said this exchange is a fulfilment of an action plan drafted last year during President Xi Jinping’s state visit with President Cyril Ramaphosa.
“This exchange is an investment in the future and the next generation of South African scientists,” said the Acting DG.
Chinese Ambassador to South Africa, Lin Songtian, said the YSEP shows commitment from both governments to strengthen cooperation and deepen people to people cooperation.
“It is our sincere hope that there will be more Chinese scientists who will also come here [South Africa] for our joint research projects.
“It is also our sincere hope that you will use your time in China to travel and learn about our Chinese culture and return to tell the true story of China,” he said.