Programme Coordinator

Prof Willem Fourie is Associate Professor at the University of Pretoria. He has written widely in the public media on South Africa’s attainment of the SDGs, and has been invited to speak on the topic in South Africa and abroad. In 2019, Willem played a leading role in the drafting of South Africa’s SDG Country Report.

Since 2011, Willem has acted as expert advisor the African Union’s NEPAD Agency on issues related to development effectiveness. He was the lead author of the Africa Union Transformative Leadership Programme (AU-TLP), and he was closely involved with drafting the Africa Action Plan on Development Effectiveness.

Willem has published close to thirty peer-reviewed articles and chapters, and he authored a peer-reviewed monograph and edited a peer-reviewed collection of essays. He has received a number of research awards, notably an Alexander von Humboldt fellowship.

He also acts as Programme Director of the newly established Master’s in Development Practice. This innovative new postgraduate qualification is the first to equip participants with the multidisciplinary competences needed to implement complex development agendas such as the SDGs.

Email: willem.fourie[at]up.ac.za

Associate Coordinator

Dr Selma Karuaihe is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Agricultural Economics, Extension and Rural Development at the University of Pretoria (UP).

During her time as Head of Economics at UNAM, Dr Karuaihe taught and supervised students, and one of her MSc student received the highest award for best thesis in 2008. Dr Karuaihe was responsible for mentoring and promoting junior researchers and academics as part of capacity building at UNAM and at the HSRC. 

During her time as Senior Economist, at the City of Johannesburg, Dr Karuaihe interacted with politicians and policy makers for the development of the city’s economy, as the country’s economic hub.

Dr Karuaihe’s international exposure started in the 1990s when she joined the Academic Board of the renowned African Economic Research Consortium (AERC), based in Nairobi, Kenya, as part of her duty at UNAM. In 2002, she was appointed as Visiting Lecturer for International Trade and Economic Integration at the Sixth International Summer School of the University of Applied Sciences, Schmalkalden, Germany. There she taught a cohort of students from different continents, such as: the US, Canada, Europe and Asia. To date, Dr Karuaihe is a Visiting lecturer of the AERC Collaborative Masters program offered by a network of 13 Universities.

Associate Co-ordinator

Dr Olebogeng Selebi is a government communication expert in the Department of Business Management at the University of Pretoria. She believes in the use of research-based, academically sound, real-world government communication strategies that facilitate economic development. Olebogeng completed a PhD in Communication Management from the University of Pretoria. Her research culminated in the development of a communication framework for South Africa’s National Development Plan (NDP). She holds certificates in the fields of communication, media and economics from the University of Graz (Austria), the University of Porto (Portugal), and the University of Milan (Italy). She has extensive teaching experience in Business Communication Skills, Corporate Communication Management and Reputation Management, having lectured approximately 2000 undergraduate and postgraduate students every year. Her professional career also involved visiting lectureship at HAN University of Applied Sciences in The Netherlands. Before her career in academia, she worked as a Junior Communication Consultant at Burson-Marsteller Africa.

Senior Researcher

Dr Dominique Mystris completed her doctoral studies at Queen Mary University of London where her thesis considered the need for a regional criminal court through analysis of the proposed African criminal court. She developed and hosts the podcast Africa Rights Talks, has lectured at various universities in England since 2011, worked for international research institutions and organisations, and consulted for non-profit organisations in Africa, Asia and London on human rights issues including development of policy and advocacy approaches. Her research interests lie in the areas of peace and security, public international law, international criminal law, international humanitarian law and transnational crimes.

Senior Researcher

Dr Vandudzai Mbanda is an economist with solid experience in socio-economic research mainly at academic and research institutions. She holds a PhD in Economics from the University of Johannesburg and a master’s degree in Economics from the University Pretoria. In her research, Vandudzai focuses on the interlinkages between socio-economic variables including economic growth, infrastructure, education, gender, employment, production, consumption, food security, poverty and inequality.

Expert Advisor: Natural language processing

Dr Vukosi Marivate holds the ABSA Chair of Data Science at the University of Pretoria. Vukosi is an expert in natural language processing. He received his PhD in Computer Science from Rutgers University in the United States, after which he worked as Senior Data Scientist and later Acting Research Group Leader: Data Science.

Operations Manager

Raees Jogie is the operations manager for the South African SDG Hub. His functions revolve around administrative and logistical support. Assisting the Masters in Development Practice students is another key function performed. Lastly, he manages the social media exchanges for the Hub and its output. Raees is currently completing his Master’s degree at the University of Pretoria in the field of business strategy.

Email: Raees.Jogie[at]up.ac.za

Technical Lead

Isak van der Walt leads the SA SDG Hub’s team of developers. Under his guidance, they are exploring the potential of deep learning for improving the search function of the Hub. At the University of Pretoria, Van der Walt is the Digital Scholarship and MakerSpace Manager.

Email: isak.vanderwalt[at]up.ac.za

Associate: Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence

Hannes Strydom is responsible for improving the Hub’s search function by developing a tailored machine learning solution. He is also investigating the potential of Artificial Intelligence. Hannes did his undergraduate degree in biotechnology with the main focus on human genetics and biochemistry. His honours degree research project was on bioinformatics, attempting to streamline the process of genetic linkage map and genome integration. His Master’s project focuses on the possibility of creating a mathematical model to simulate the effects of a new pest control method.

Associate: Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence

Christopher Marais is part of the technical team responsible for continuously improving the Hub’s search function. This includes developing an improved machine learning search function, a query chat bot and other Artificial Intelligence possibilities. Christopher did his undergraduate degree with majors in Human Genetics, Psychology and Physiology. His honours degree in bioinformatics encompassed a research project focusing on variant discovery in the Pine megagenomes for use in SNP-chip sequencing technology. His Master’s degree is aimed at developing skills and techniques for analysis of Big data with a specific focus and application on big data of the bio-economy in the tree agricultural industry of South Africa.

Advisors

Advisors to the South African SDG Hub provide strategic input, particularly with regard to its usability and relevance. The following representatives from the South African government, development partners, academia and multilateral organisations act as advisors:

Busani Ngcaweni
Head: Policy Analysis and Research Services
The Presidency of South Africa
Ruth Stewart
Professor and Director
Africa Centre for Evidence
University of Johannesburg
Steve Nicholls
Head
Environmental Sustainability
National Business Initiative
Elsabe Loots
Professor and Dean
Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences
University of Pretoria
Alex Antonites
Professor and Head of Department
Department of Business Management
University of Pretoria
Fatou Leigh
Senior Economist and SDG Focal Point
United Nations Development Programme