Our History

Future Africa is committed to advancing interdisciplinary scholarship, developing leadership skills, and transforming the African continent by bringing together a diverse group of scholars to address its grand challenges.

As a collaborative platform, Future Africa’s mode of operating is guided by principles of common purpose and shared value.

Where It All Began


Future Africa’s initial development was overseen by Professor Cheryl de la Rey, former Vice Chancellor and Principal of the University of Pretoria. The vision for Future Africa was to establish a centre of excellence to promote interdisciplinary research aimed at some of the world’s most intractable problems. The centre would bring a variety of academics together in a multigenerational living and working environment to encourage multidisciplinary conversation on research. Future Africa would also cultivate the leadership capabilities of its academic community, empowering them to drive forward an agenda of collaborative and open science.


The Experimental Farm of the University was selected as the Future Africa location after considerable consultation with all university stakeholders. In November, the campus' design, which featured lodging, offices, and a dining hall, was approved. Phase 2 of the development saw approval of the research and knowledge commons.


Following discussion and commitments for the potential use of the space by Enterprises @UP, the business model proposal and funding for the research commons and conference facilities were accepted. Throughout this time, there was ongoing consultation with the UP leadership and academic community.

A significant first programme was developed following funding from the Bosch Foundation to establish an African Science Leadership Programme, linking and equipping science leaders from across the continent, under the leadership of Professor Bernard Slippers and in collaboration with the Global Young Academy. Subsequently, the Tuks Young Research Leader Program was also established at UP.

The Launch


To supervise and guide all preparations for the Future Africa Launch, the Future Africa Launch Committee was created. The committee held many meetings to discuss matters pertaining to the planning and execution of the event, communication, and marketing, as well as the finalisation of the program, speakers, and invited guests.


The launch event was successfully held on 29 March, with speeches from senior university academics, partners, and live music and dancing that continued into the evening. Future Africa opened the campus, conference centres, and gardens to the public.

Recent Developments


In April 2022 Dr Heide Hackmann, formerly CEO of the International Science Council, was appointed as Director of Future Africa. Following the Covid-19 pandemic Future Africa lost some of the early momentum and excitement created by its launch. Dr Hackmann has begun an ambitious programme of rejuvenating Future Africa and developing a coherent and compelling narrative for the platform. This includes strengthening existing networks with UP faculty collaborators and building new ties with government stakeholders and international partners.


Four new Research Chairs are established:

  • Global Equity in Africa
  • African Science and Technology Futures
  • African Sustainability Transformations
  • Youth Education and Empowerment

In addition, cross-cutting initiatives including Africa Week and The Futures Literacy Incubator are in the process of being set up.

We train, mentor, and connect a new generation of global research leaders who will take forward necessary transformations of science and society from within Africa.