Namibia’s National Commission on Research Science and Technology (NCRST) successfully hosted the 3rd Namibia-South Africa Joint Researchers’ Workshop at Hilton Hotel in Windhoek from 22nd to 23rd September, 2015.

The main aim of this Workshop was to find out the progress of the Namibia-South Africa Joint Research Projects, which are funded by NCRST on the Namibian side and the National Research Foundation (NRF) on the South African side.

As one of the Joint Researchers from the Namibian side, NCRST generously flew me from Ondangwa and accommodated me at Hilton Hotel together with the group of researchers from South Africa for the whole period of the Workshop. I am really grateful to them for this sponsorship!

I made a joint presentation with Prof Thomas Olwal, my partner on the South African side, on 22 September, 2015. Our topic was titled Optimization of Free Space Optical Communication under Southern African Climatology.

Among other things, our presentation focused on the project’s objectives, methodology, the progress made so far, our preliminary results, and the challenges that we have encountered in our work. We also spoke about the students who have benefited from this project.

Apart from our presentation, there were 25 other joint presentations. Amongst all the presentations that I attended, I liked the one made by Prof Benjamin Mapani and Prof Isaac Mapaure the most. The title was Understanding the interdependence of water resources,climate change and biodiversity in arid to semi-arid regions of Namibia.

Their study was conducted in the region of the Naukluft Mountains, which is 250 km south of Windhoek. Their results show that the region is heavily dependent on very old underground water, which is being depleted at a fast rate due to insufficient precipitation. This is a real wake-up call for the country!

Namibia is water-stressed. Short-term and long-term measures must be put in place to ensure water security. Smart Water technologies will definitely be one of the solutions that will ensure proper water management. Desalination of sea water may also be one of the solutions. Sometimes I wonder why the world is getting thirstier and thirstier when 71 percent of the Earth’s surface is water-covered.

Last but not least, I observed that there were some presentations which were done by only one researcher even though their co-researchers were also in attendance. The same person who made the presentation also responded to all the questions. Are these projects really joint? Why were the co-researchers not taking part in the presentation?

One of the things that these bilateral projects attempt to achieve is the transfer of skills between the two countries. If the work is one-sided, there is definitely no transfer of skills. Actually, the dormant partner is an excess baggage to the whole research process.

In 2012, when Prof Olwal suggested that we should submit a proposal, focussing on Free Space Optical Communication (FSOC), to NRF and NCRST for possible funding, I was a bit hesitant because FSOC is not my primary area of interest. After reading about the potential benefits of the technology, I became very motivated.

I really embraced the concept and I have learnt a lot in the process thereby expanding my research horizon. Several BSc students, that I have worked with, are now well conversant with the FSOC technology. This is human capital development!

Next time, NRF and NCRST must make it mandatory for both researchers to take part in the joint presentations. Researchers have to clearly highlight their contribution to the work. If some researchers are tied up elsewhere, they should be obliged to send other members of their team, even students, to present on their behalf.

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