Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University (SMU) has taken a conscious decision to place the Academic Project (teaching and learning and research and innovation) at the centre of its operations. This involves the
establishment of national and international partnerships and collaborations to ensure that it has adequate capacity to support its strategic objectives.
It is against this background that SMU, led by the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Peter Mbati, hosted the Chinese Embassy at SMU on the 27 July 2022. The Chinese delegation was led by the Chinese Minister Counsellor for Science and Technology, Mr Long SHEN and the second Secretary for Science and Technology, Mr. Wei XIE. The meeting follows on initial discussions with the Chinese Embassy as well as the prestigious Wenzhou Medical University located in Zhejiang, China.
In his opening remarks, Prof. Mbati said that “SMU has taken a de- liberate approach to establish partnerships to help address heath issues locally, continentally and globally through teaching and learning and research and innovation”. He further indicated that central to the discussion was the need to, broadly, deepen the relationships between SMU and Chinese higher education institutions.
In response, the Chinese Minister Counsellor emphasised his government’s commitment to advance health sciences and innovation, including the development of vaccines and research in smart agriculture. He further emphasised China’s commitment to fund research projects on the African continent. In this regard, the first project that will be initiated between SMU and the Chinese government is skills development and training in the field of ophthalmology, involving the Wenzhou Medical University.
The highly ranked Wenzhou Medical University (WMU) was identified as the partner of choice for collaboration with SMU. The initial engagements with WMU were aimed at the introduction of an Ophthalmology and Optometry Advanced training programme and the envisaged collaboration between SMU and WMU. This drew on ongoing SMUs efforts to strengthen and enhance strategic partnerships between academia and industry nationally and internationally.
As part of the meeting, SMU’s Director for Research and Innovation, Prof. Mapaseka Seheri made a presentation focusing on the establishment of the Centre of Pandemic Diseases. In her presentation, she indicated that as part of SMU’s strategic goals the university seeks to ensure that through the establishment of the Centre, it “contributes to ensuring an understanding of emerging pandemics and how best to treat them, and to strengthen health policies, equip policy and decision makers with evidence-based research interventions”. Furthermore, the Centre seeks to build collaborations with internationally recognized centers of excellence”, Prof. Seheri said. Possible collaborations with the Chinese government in this regard were considered.
To conclude what, in all respects, was a successful meeting, the Chinese visitors were taken through a campus tour where they visited the following laboratories: MECRU, Microbiology, Centre of Entrepreneurship and the EMU facility. What has become evident is the commitment between SMU and the Chinese Embassy to forge a partnership and to contribute to the training of health sciences practitioners and to address health challenges in South Africa, China and globally.