Dr. Lawrence Banks attends the farewell ceremony for Dr. Phil Mjwara.

A salute to international partnering in Africa

On 25 April 2024, Lawrence Banks was in Pretoria to attend the ceremony for South Africa’s longest serving Director-General of the Department of Science and Innovation, Government of South Africa, Dr. Phil Mjwara.

Welcomed by Acting Director-General, DSI, Mr. Daan du Toit, Dr. Banks was delighted to pay tribute as an international partner of DSI on the occasion of the retirement of Dr. Mjwara. Collaborating with ICGEB throughout the period of consolidation of the Cape Town Component, Dr. Banks stated that “in all of this time our collaborations with DSI and with Dr. Mjwara in particular have been amazing, enabling us to make real impacts upon the capacity building activities, training, education, research and most importantly technology transfer and local production so that the pressing needs of the populations of Africa can be met.”

“One of the joys of working with Phil has been a very straightforward approach: keep things simple, have a clear path forward, have homework for everyone present to pursue, and once a decision is made to be then decisive and drive it to its logical conclusion. This is a unique combination of skill sets which has been fantastic to behold – and of course from my standpoint has made the work of ICGEB in South Africa effective but also easy.”

Dr. Phil Mjwara
Dr. Phil Mjwara

Before a distinguished crowd including Ministers and stakeholders from across the national system of innovation, Dr. Banks mentioned two special programmes in which Dr. Mjwara “really helped us make a massive difference.”

“The first is a programme specifically aimed at South African Historically Disadvantaged Institutes – where we are working extremely closely to really raise the bar in what they can accomplish in the biotechnology sector – but also to ensure their faculty get really great opportunities and retain their skills within those institutes. I have had the pleasure of visiting many – including Venda, Walter Susulu, and Fort Hare – and for me these have been life changing experiences – amazing people – amazing enthusiasm and a passion to really use science for the people.”

“The African Women in Science programme is also something for which we have received fantastic support – ensuring that Cape Town can be a hosting centre for young women scientists to meet the desperate needs to ensure gender and equal opportunities for all on the African Continent. This has been amazing and again incredibly successful – and also an activity which showcases the best of what South Africa and Italy have been doing in partnership.”

As reported in the South African Government News Agency, quoting Minister Prof. Blade Nzimande, Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Dr. Mjwara leaves the public service with a solid reputation of visionary and ethical leadership.

Dr. Banks commented: “We remain fully committed to making local manufacturing capabilities in all aspects of biotechnology, from health to agriculture and bioenergy a reality – and something which will truly make African nations independent from challenges including external supply chains and exhorbitant pricing practices. With thanks to Dr. Mjwara and the South African Government on behalf of all at ICGEB.”

Link to speeches