10 November 2022 | Story NONSINDISO QWABE | Photo SCOTT MOLEFE
From the left Prof Corli Witthun, Dr Martin Mandew, Dr Nicolas Brühl, Jacquelene Friedenthal, Dr Ralph Clark
Prof Corli Witthun, Dr Martin Mandew, Dr Nicolas Brühl, Jacquelene Friedenthal, Dr Ralph Clark.

Dr Nicolas Brühl, Ambassador of Switzerland to South Africa, visited the Afromontane Research Unit (ARU) on the University of the Free State (UFS) Qwaqwa Campus on 7 and 8 November to learn about the cutting-edge mountain research that the ARU is leading. 

Switzerland and South Africa have maintained high-level exchanges which have been a strong driving force for development in South Africa. 

Building collaborations for future mountain research

Both countries are rich in mountain biodiversity, and the ARU and Qwaqwa Campus will gain from Swiss expertise in the science and scholarship of mountain research by partnering with the country for future cooperative mountain research. 

Speaking at the Qwaqwa Campus, Dr Brühl said the mountain world in the Southern Hemisphere was not as well-known as the Northern Hemisphere’s. “We are very satisfied to see the work that is being done,” he said. “The [ARU and UFS] are already in the right direction with their research, and we could do more to support this through scholarships for more sustainability. We hope this visit is an accelerator for a biodiverse range of projects in the future.” 

The ambassador was treated to a helicopter ride over the Maloti-Drakensberg mountains spanning all the way into the Lesotho mountains.

Scientific research a vehicle for building sustainable development

The possibility of mutual exchange visits through scholarships was also put on the agenda. Jacquelene Friedenthal, Science and Technology Counsellor at the Swiss Embassy, gave a short presentation on the available scholarships for PhD, postdoctoral, and long-term research opportunities that the embassy offers qualifying South Africans.

Professor Pearl Sithole, Campus Vice-Principal: Academic and Research, said the Qwaqwa Campus has beefed up its relationship- and network-building as a way of moving scientific research forward. “We are very proud of the mountains and are trying to balance a whole range of things through our faculties, which all come together to support the ARU in its various projects. We can collaborate and put each other under pressure in terms of what works for this part of the country.”

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