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14 December 2020
Prof Abdon Atangana
Prof Abdon Atangana is known for his work in developing a new fractional operator used to model real-world problems arising in the fields of science, technology, and engineering. He was recently awarded the TWAS Mohammad A. Hamdan Award by The World Academy of Sciences.

Prof Abdon Atangana, Professor of Applied Mathematics in the Institute for Groundwater Studies at the University of the Free State (UFS), was awarded the TWAS Mohammad A. Hamdan Award by The World Academy of Sciences for the advancement of science in developing countries.

It is the first time that the TWAS Mohammad A. Hamdan Award was bestowed. According to a statement issued by TWAS, this award is given for outstanding mathematical work carried out by a scientist working and living in Africa or the Arab region. It states that the award can be given for work in pure mathematics, applied mathematics, probability, or statistics. Prof Atangana received the award for his contribution to fractal mathematics and partial differential equations.

Making a difference in society

He is known for his research in developing a new fractional operator, the Atangana-Baleanu operator, which is used to model real-world problems. With this operator, he not only describes the rate at which something will change, but also account for disrupting factors that will help to produce better projections.

His work can be applied to make complicated predictions in the fields of science, technology, and engineering. His models can, for instance, help to predict the spread of infectious diseases among people in a settlement, forecasting the number of people who will be infected each day, the number of people who will recover, and the number of people who will die.

Prof Atangana’s models can also help to advise people drilling for water by predicting how groundwater is flowing in a complex geological formation. These are only two examples of how his work can be applied to make a difference in society.

The award from TWAS is the third prestigious commendation he has received in the past month. He was recently named as one of the top 1% scientists on the global Clarivate Web of Science list. His name also appeared on a global list of leading scientists published by Stanford University in the United States. The list is the result of a study published in PLOS Biology, a peer-reviewed open-access journal.

World’s most accomplished scientists

Honours awarded by TWAS and its partners are among the most prestigious for research in the developing world. They recognise outstanding achievements and contributions to science and acknowledge the best work by scientists from the global South.

TWAS, founded in 1983 by a group of scientists under the leadership of Pakistani physicist and Nobel laureate, Abdus Salam, believes that developing nations – by growing strength in science and engineering – will be able to address challenges such as hunger, disease, and poverty, through their knowledge and skills.

TWAS is represented in 100 countries, and of the more than a thousand elected fellows, 14 are Nobel laureates. Eighty-four percent of these fellows are from developing nations. TWAS fellows are also some of the world’s most accomplished scientists.

News Archive

Democracy and traditional leadership in rural areas explored
2017-09-22

Description: Democracy Tags: Democracy, customary law, human rights, research, constitution 

Prof Lungisile Ntsebeza, recipient of the NRF Hamilton
Naki Award
Photo: Supplied


The Free State Centre for Human Rights held a presentation by Prof Lungisile Ntsebeza on 7 September 2017 at the University of the Free State (UFS) Bloemfontein Campus on the topic of democracy and traditional leadership in rural areas. Prof Ntsebeza is the holder of the AC Jordan Chair in African Studies at the University of Cape Town and the holder of the National Research Foundation (NRF) Research Chair in Land Reform and Democracy in South Africa. 

Conflict between democracy and traditional rule
The topic of democracy and traditional leadership in the rural areas is an example of the tension between democracy and customary law governing the appointment of traditional leaders (headmen) that is currently at play in many parts of the country. Prof Ntsebeza made reference to a court case in the Eastern Cape, where a community successfully challenged the appointment of a headman by the royal family of the area. The contention was whether royal families could appoint headmen in rural communities or if those communities ought to democratically elect their own leaders. He argued that in this specific case, the democratic imperatives of the Constitution did not conflict with customary law because of the particular communal practice of electing leaders. 

The Constitution and customary law

The Constitution of South Africa recognises customary law provisions which are not in conflict with its fundamental values. Difficult legitimacy problems may arise where customary practices are different from those governing this particular case. Ultimately the Constitutional Court would be called upon to resolve inherent tensions and develop customary law in line with the direction foreseen in the Constitution.

Student engagement as a vehicle for change
The event was attended by UFS staff and fourth-year LLB students in the Faculty of Law, and was funded by the Free State Centre for Human Rights at UFS. The programme is one of several that the centre seeks to utilise in engaging students with researchers and scholars in the field of law and human rights. Prof Ntsebeza has given academic presentations on various related and trending topics in the current academic climate, such as decolonising the curriculum, Cecil John Rhodes and others. He was recently awarded the Hamilton Naki Award at the 2017 National Research Foundation Awards.

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