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South Africa-Japan University Forum: Building Bridges for Collaboration

Author: Inge Odendaal

This August, the 6th South Africa-Japan University (SAJU) Forum, hosted by Stellenbosch University, promises to be another milestone in the academic relations between the two countries. Building on the success of past gatherings, this year’s forum tackles the theme of “Fostering Sustainable Partnerships in Research, Innovation and Impact.”  SAJU 6 aims to build on previous gatherings, which have fostered strong collaborations and driven research and innovation between South African and Japanese universities. This year’s event will bring together academics, government officials, and industry leaders from both nations to strengthen existing partnerships and plan for continued progress and collaboration.

The SAJU Forum serves as a structured framework for cooperation between higher education institutions in both countries. It aims to bolster mobility networks, establish exchange programmes, promote joint research and development, and institutionalize university partnerships. Inaugurated in Hiroshima, Japan 2007, it has since expanded and evolved in its participation and scope. Initially, the forum served as a platform for representatives from higher education institutions. However, it has grown to include participants from government, industry, funding agencies, and the private sector. The topics and academic disciplines discussed at the forums have also been diverse. Researchers and their presentations have come from different institutions across South Africa and Japan, spanning various research fields such as humanities, social sciences, natural and applied sciences, and business and commerce. This range of difference has offered various perspectives and encouraged interdisciplinary conversations. However, the forum’s focus has always centred around sustainable development and global changes in the 21st century.

Here is a timeline of SAJU’s history


SAJU 1: Launch of SAJU

The SAJU Forum was initially founded, with its first meeting taking place in Hiroshima, Japan. 


SAJU 2: Joint Research in Science and Technological Fields

The second meeting took place in Cape Town, South Africa.


SAJU 3: Cooperation and SDG’s 

The re-launch and third SAJU meeting took place in Tokyo. The theme was “Cooperation between South African and Japanese universities towards the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”  


SAJU 4: Global Challenges in the 21st Century

The fourth SAJU Forum was held at the University of Pretoria, South Africa. This forum was the first to include participants outside academia, such as industry and government representatives. The theme was “The human being in the 21st Century in the context of global changes”.
Read the SAJU 4 conference report.


SAJU 5: Open Collaboration and Innovation with Trust

The most recent SAJU was held on July 28-29, 2022, with the theme of “Open Collaboration and Innovation with Trust”. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the conference was held online. A distinguishing characteristic of this forum was its online platform and the first-ever SAJU 5 student session. This session gave students who had lived in both South Africa and Japan a platform to share their experiences. This SAJU 5 forum also committed itself to continuing to pursue collaboration between South African and Japanese universities and working with government partners and funding agencies to support the capacities of universities.
Read the SAJU 5 conference report.


SAJU 6 : Fostering Sustainable Partnerships in Research, Innovation, and Impact

SAJU 6 hopes to build on the efforts made during past SAJUs. This year’s forum has set out its objectives to continue enhancing collaboration, emphasizing the commitment to deeper and broader partnerships, and strengthening and expanding the conversation between institutional partners involved in research and innovation. The sub-themes for this conference include (1) health and well-being, (2) social justice and development and (3) systems and technologies for the future.

Read more on 6th South Africa-Japan University Forum (SAJU 6) Theme and Goals 

Please find out how to submit your research with our Call for SAJU 6 Proposals page

Forums such as SAJU are about more than just academic collaboration. They are instrumental in consolidating bilateral relationships, agreements, and opportunities like the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD). They also provide the structure to pursue sustainable research, innovation, and education collaborations between South African and Japanese scholars, contributing significantly to both countries’ academic and socio-economic development. The impact of SAJU over the years can be seen in the increased mobility of researchers and students between the two countries and the establishment of exchange programs among universities.

Visit the SAJU 6 website for details on the upcoming forum, including abstracts, registration, and important dates.