Thursday, 27 November 2008

Dr Mamphela Ramphele delivers inspiring address at AGS Urban Growth Workshop


The Alliance for Global Sustainability (AGS), an international partnership of four universities; namely the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the USA, Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden and the University of Tokyo, hosted an Urban Futures Initiative workshop from 16 to 17 November 2008.

The seminar, themed ""Integrating sustainability into African urban growth"", took place at the Cape Town Campus. Attendees were treated to expert speakers and innovators in the industry of sustainable urban development.

The workshop was open to members of the alliance partner universities, industry representatives, students and members of the public and provided an African perspective on urban futures.

Spanning over two days, the seminar opened with a welcome reception, including a poster presentation by research students from local tertiary institutions.

The second day consisted of three panel discussions and an innovation exercise, with over ten speakers delivering presentations. This included the inspiring keynote address by anti-apartheid stalwart and former University of Cape Town Vice-Chancellor Dr Mamphela Ramphele, who represented Circle Capital Ventures, South Africa.

Guests received a warm welcome from CPUT Vice-Chancellor Prof Vuyisa Mazwi-Tanga, who explained how the seminar was jointly organised by CPUT, Chalmers University of Technology and the AGS, through the University’s Applied Sciences Faculty.

Prof Mazwi-Tanga expressed how the Faculty, Headed by Dean Prof Olalekan Fatoki, spearheaded the preparations for the workshop locally, with committee members representing Chalmers and the University of Cape Town.

The purpose for the day was outlined by Dr Sébastien Rauch, an Associate Professor, lecturer and post-graduate research supervisor at Chalmers – a Swedish university of technology in which research is conducted particularly in the fields of bioscience, IT, environmental science and nanotechnology.

He shared that the aim of the seminar was to discuss the triumphs and challenges of creating sustainable urban developments and to have the rare opportunity hear from a panel of local and international industry experts.

A highlight of the workshop was the keynote address delivered by Dr Mamphela Ramphele titled ‘Putting people first in the urban environment’.

Her address emphasised the importance of developers prioritising the ‘human factor’ when creating sustainable environments, within the modern urban setting.

She shared her thoughts on urban developments in general and spoke of the need to regularly revisit plans in order to properly manage the transformation of towns and cities; as a direct outcome of urbanisation.

In terms of the African perspective, Dr Ramphele’s address spoke to the socio-economic conditions underlying the exodus of rural people into the urban zones, creating ‘slum-living’, which is the present-day challenge that governments and developers alike.

Dr Ramphele wrapped up her address with suggestions that in the growing unstable political climate and with increasing migration figures leaning towards a majority of the population inhabiting urban areas, developers should take the African context into consideration when planning urban environments.

Dr Ramphele is a qualified Medical Doctor (UKZN). Her other qualifications include a PhD in Social Anthropology (UCT), a BComm in Administration (UNISA), as well as diplomas in Tropical Health and Hygiene and Public Health (WITS). She is a current trustee on the board of the Rockefeller Foundation in New York and is also a former fellow of the Bunting Institute.

Dr Ramphele has served on several boards including the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, the Institute for a Democratic Alternative for South Africa (IDASA), the Anglo-American Corporation and Transnet. She has received eighteen honorary degrees, numerous awards and has authored and edited numerous books.

By Thando J. Moiloa

Written by CPUT News