AfREC members and other UWA staff met with Australian High Commissioner to Mauritius Jenny Dee and DFAT WA State Director Kate Longhurst for consultations at UWA on 15 April 2019. The High Commissioner, who also has accreditation to Seychelles, Madagascar, Comoros and Reunion Island (consular), was in Australia for her mid-term consultations, with Perth as the first stop on a three-week series of meetings across Australia.
The fruitful meeting, convened by UWA Pro Vice-Chancellor International and AfREC Research Fellow Professor Erika Techera, discussed Mauritius’ current priorities in the higher education, research and training sectors and how UWA other Australian-based partners could deepen existing collaborations and build new engagement with the African Indian Ocean island country. It was noted that the recently-launched UWA Vision 2030 positions the University for a strategic focus on engaging the Indian Ocean rim, a region Perth shares with Mauritius and a range of other African island and continental countries.
Areas of research, education and training collaboration canvassed included agriculture, financial technologies and regulation, mining services, international relations, environmental law, blue economy and public health, among others. The High Commissioner highlighted how in 2020 Australia and Mauritius will celebrate 50 years of diplomatic relations and hence how this would be a great opportunity to further deepen the relationships between the countries, their institutions and their peoples.
UWA, which has an institutional Memorandum of Understanding with the University of Mauritius, has several research, education and training collaborations underway in the country across a number of fields. The University of Mauritius, which has a Chair in Indian Ocean Studies, in partnership with the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) also recently advertised for a new SSR Chair of African Studies. AfREC is keen to build a strong relationship with Mauritius and IORA in these spaces.
Importantly, the University of Mauritius is alongside UWA and other partners a member of the Australia Africa Universities Network (AAUN), the unique inter-continental research and education network. AfREC Research Fellow Professor Wallace Cowling, who participated the meeting, led an AAUN-funded project entitled “New plant breeding methods for sustainable use of genetic resources and security of food production”, which held a workshop at the University of Mauritius in January 2018.
Indeed, the University of Mauritius will host the 2019 AAUN Africa Forum & AGM on 22-23 July, entitled “Local and Global: From Small Island States to the World”. The Forum expects “up to 100 expert participants from academia, government, diplomatic missions, business, and agencies. Discussants will include Heads of Missions, Academic, Business and NGO experts. The Forum brings together multidisciplinary expertise to consider how the Australia Africa Universities Network can contribute in advancing higher education and research, learning and training. This is crucial against the background of the international policy framework, which includes the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the China Belt and Road Initiative, the UN Paris Climate Accords, the AU Africa 2063, and diverse national policies. A stimulating program aimed at practical outcomes, with sufficient time for discussion and networking, has been developed. This includes a conference dinner and specific theme-based research workshops with industry participation on Day 2.”
In turn, UWA will host the 2019 AAUN Australia Forum & AGM in Perth on 2 September.