Exploring the ties of Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean for a better future

Because of similar interests and agendas, there are many benefits that South Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean can have if they collaborate in certain areas and learn from each other. As Unisa Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Mandla Makhanya says: “We share a history, we share cultures, we share commercial relations and, even more important in a globalised world, we ought to share a common destiny as humanity.”


He was speaking on 27 March 2015 at a diplomatic reception for heads of diplomatic missions from the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region (stationed in Pretoria) on the resuscitation of the Unisa Centre for Latin American Studies (UCLAS). The Institute for Global Dialogue (IDG) is charged with coordinating the process of revitalising UCLAS in partnership with other stakeholders within and outside Unisa.

“Unisa recently decided to revive and re-launch the Unisa Centre for Latin American Studies as a platform for cutting-edge research and a catalyst for conversations, cultural and educational exchange initiatives,” said the VC, adding that such a centre should be mindful of the hard work ahead. Consideration must also be given to how this centre will find relevance to the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century.

“But this centre will be greatly enriched by your insights and inputs,” the VC told diplomats “as it will, inter alia, be an important intellectual resource for your various missions as it will also inform South African, and possibly, African policy initiatives towards Latin America and the Caribbean region.” The VC also thanked Dr Siphamandla Zondi of the IGD for his “visionary leadership” and “for being such a valuable partner for Unisa, virtually turning Unisa into an intellectual capital of diplomats”.

Zondi said that UCLAS was established in the 1980s and became defunct in the late 2000s but Unisa has decided to revive it in response to the growing importance of understanding the Latin America and the Caribbean region in a changing global south and how this impacts on Africa.

“UCLAS is an transdisciplinary centre of research, information and community engagement on political, economic and social and cultural dynamics in Latin America and the Caribbean in the context of the changing global south and how these affect South Africa and Africa. Its mandate is to promote scholarly research and exchanges, policy engagement, business interactions and cultural contact between South Africa, Africa and the region.”

The centre’s core activities will include research on political, economic and social dynamics; publications of both academic and non-academic nature, and community engagement in the form of relationships and purposeful interactions with the diplomatic corps and other communities of the global south, bringing the university closer to them and them closer to the university. This includes exchanges and cultural events. “Through these relationships and networks, we also hope to generate support for research activities and events,” said Zondi.

Professor Greg Cuthbertson, Executive Dean of Unisa’s College of Graduate Studies (CGS), said Unisa is committed to providing a platform for this innovation. There is a vast range of capacity within the university for research collaboration and engagement. He added that the interdisciplinary nature of the CGS provides an ideal platform for creative research across continental and national boundaries, but also around disciplinary ones.

Renato Carlos Sersale Di Cerisano, Argnetianian Ambassador, welcomed the initiative to revive UCLAS, and said that collaboration with universities and higher education was important and that South Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean had much to learn from each other. South Africa, he continued, has a lot in common with these regions, and Asia, but for historical reasons the country always looks to Asia and Europe. The same, he said, occurs with Latin America and the Caribbean who look to North America and Europe.

*By Rivonia Naidu-Hoffmeester


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