The Africa Institute of South Africa spoke of their progress in turning the organization around, after two years of internal turbulence. They were focusing on areas of monitoring and evaluation, which had been a weakness in the past. By filling vacancies and employing managers they were ensuring that work was done more efficiently. They were establishing links and collaborating with other organizations and Departments in order to mitigate output costs.
Members identified lack of proper marketing as a weakness of the organization. They offered suggestions to the Institute to increase its visibility. However, there were concerns about whether this institution was merely duplicating the work of other research institutions. The Institute assured the Committee that their focus was more specialized and that they provided invaluable information about the African continent. Questions were raised about the Institute’s budget rollover and a report was requested on this.
Africa Institute of South Africa Strategic Plan 2008/09
Mr Matlotleng Matlou (CEO) presented the document titled “AISA Strategic Plan”. He made the following additional comments:
▪ The mandate of the Africa Institute of South Africa (AISA) was to conduct research on African Affairs and disseminate this information.
▪ Slide 3 With regard to the third focus area, he said that strategic relationships were often built by entering into memoranda of understanding (MOU)s. One of the reasons for such an agreement would be to allow AISA to conduct research on behalf of other institutions / organizations in order to mitigate output costs.
▪ Slide 4 Their three line functions in the area of research were:
(1) fieldwork: AISA had increased the number of fieldworkers from thirteen to eighteen
(2) producing manuscripts from the fieldwork undertaken
(3) producing policy papers: these were very valuable to Government and even the African Union. An example was the policy papers they had produced on the Kenyan elections.
▪ Slide 5 Researchers could also publish with publishers outside AISA. AISA produced a newsletter on a quarterly basis. They also produced papers on topical issues. Their accredited journal was called “Africa Insight”.
▪ Slide 6 Library and Documentation Services: AISA was established in 1960 and therefore had a library containing more than 85 000 documents. They aimed to continue to grow this library. In the previous year they had rollover funds and could therefore increase this growth. The growth would however decrease during the outer year.
▪ Slide 7 The graph illustrated that AISA has grown their female staff complement significantly.
▪ Slide 8 Their estimated income would be derived from:
(1) Government allocation as per the letter received from the Department of Science and Technology (DST)
(2) Additional funding (also from Government)
(4) Commissioned research
▪ Slide 9 This highlighted estimated expenditure in the areas of research, publications and Libraries and Documentation Services. While these were their core areas of work, the other items specified were units supporting these core areas. He said that OIL stood for Outreach and International Liaison. “Finance” included costs incurred for administration, Information Technology, transportation, lease for the building, security for the building and employee salaries.
Africa Institute of South Africa Business Plan
Mr Matlou read through the document titled “AISA Business Plan” and made the following comments:
▪ Slide 2: As stated in the October 2007 meeting, the past two years had been rocky for the organization. There had been a huge gap in management. Monitoring and evaluation was inadequate and outputs were poor.
▪ Slide 5: Among the positive developments in recent months was the organization now had a full staff complement. They had employed four more permanent staff, two new managers (apart from those appointed in December 2007). They also appointed an Executive Director of Research. Their gender balance had improved, with both the Executive Director of Research and other managers being female. There was however still a gap in the area of appointing people with disabilities. There was a great improvement in the synergy between the divisions in the organization. Previously the organization had been tearing itself apart, especially since the Research and Publication units did not have a good relationship at all. They had come to realize that they had to work together, as research would need to be published once completed.
▪ Slide 6: AISA introduced a four phase team building structure. They were part of the Team Building Institute of SA. They have worked on their organizational design by ensuring clarity of structures and reporting lines. They have introduced capacity building initiatives, both internally and with historically disadvantaged universities. This focused on research methodology and publication. The organization had undertaken project management initiatives. When the research and publication units came together, it became clear to the researchers that putting out a publication was not a simple process. Meeting deadlines was vital, as failure to do so affected the organization’s reputation.
▪ Slide 7: AISA had focused on going the ‘thematic route’ in terms of their research outputs. They therefore focused their research on issues such as sustainable development, governance and democracy (which included identifying pressure points before the elections in certain countries), as well as peace and security. In researching the area of science and technology, they have not focused on pure science but on the relationship between science and technology which had been on human issues such as shortages, the petrol price and finding alternative sources of power.
▪ Slide 8: With the appointment of a new Director of Publications, AISA hoped to release publications more regularly. Pursuant to their goal of establishing co-publishing agreements, the Director of Publications had attended the London and Nigerian Book Fairs to see how SA could benefit from selling their publications. The Chinese too were looking at publishing research done by AISA in Chinese. The aim of establishing the AISA press was not to become a huge operation, but merely to focus attention on the AISA brand.
▪ Slide 9: With Library and Documentation Services (LDS) being the flagship of the organization, there was a need to increase acquisitions in this unit. AISA aimed to digitalise information, so as to increase access internationally. This would also provide increased opportunity for e-commerce. Information technology could be used by making one or two chapters of a publication available electronically with the aim of enticing the reader to acquire the entire book. In terms of their outreach programme, LDS went to schools and was planning to distribute maps with the assistance of the Department of Education. In addition Sappi Paper had offered them paper to decrease the cost of providing information. They also did outreach to embassies, diplomatic missions and organizations locally and internationally.
▪ Slide 10: Pursuant to their goal of elevating the profile and awareness of AISA, they had established a strong media presence during the situation in Kenya. They also delivered opinions on Zimbabwe and the issue of xenophobia in SA. On 25 May 2008 they would be involved in a panel discussion with Minister Pallo Jordon on the issues of identity and xenophobia etcetera. They sent MOUs to the Departments of Foreign Affairs, Education, Justice, Water Affairs and Forestry, as well as Provincial and Local Government. These Directors-General would have to inform AISA on the work they did within Africa. AISA would then see if they could establish partnerships. AISA had also sent their CVs to the Department of Foreign Affairs, as they hoped to be included on that Department’s list of service providers assisting in training for that Department. In terms of their fundraising sources, they indicated that Sappi would be providing paper and venues, where necessary. They also were partnering with the city of Tshwane. In terms of South African diplomats and ambassadors, Mr Matlou explained that SA was the third most represented country in the world. However these diplomats were not being used effectively to market SA. In this regard AISA could act as a conduit to offer information and scholarships.
▪ Slide 11: AISA was currently addressing the negative issues raised in their Audit Reports in order to create greater stability within the organization.
▪ Slide 12: The spending on capacity building would include training. In a few weeks’ time there would be French language training, since this language was widely spoken throughout Africa. There would also be financial and intern training, as well as training provided by the AISA campus.
▪ Slide 13: This slide highlighted activities which could not be undertaken if sufficient money was not raised. Mr Matlou said that bullet point 1 should be removed from that list, as it had to be undertaken anyway.
The Chair requested that AISA provide the Committee with the papers written on the Kenyan issue, the Zimbabwean crisis and the issue of xenophobia in SA.
Mr Matlou promised that these documents would be made available to the Committee.
The Chair asked if Members could obtain access to the AISA publications.
Mr Matlou replied that these could be made available to the Committee. He asked if it should be provided to this Committee only or to Parliament in general.
The Chair said that while it should be made available to Parliament in general, the Committee should be given preference. AISA could perhaps start by providing it to the Parliament Library.
Mr Matlou said that they would visit the library once the meeting had ended.
The Chair wanted to know what students were learning at the AISA campus.
Mr Matlou replied that they were taught about research methodology. This was very important since very often graduates were employed in Government and similar institutions and were unable to write reports. The Director of Publications, who was part of that team, would be responsible for explaining the publication process and its requirements, for example the use of footnotes and style. Their colleagues from LDS provided information on electronic searches and internet use. It emerged from students from the University of Venda that there was not only lack of access to Internet, but to computers generally. The LDS also went to secondary schools to provide electronic information focusing on Africa. They were looking at how to use Government Multi Purpose Centres to provide this information. The AISA campus was in Tshwane at first, but was now moving to universities, where they were involving other lecturers in the training process. They also used staff from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) for this purpose
The Chair wanted more information on the AISA units not dealt with in the slides.
Mr Matlou said that this would be made available to the Committee soon.
The Chair asked for more information regarding the staff complement of AISA. He asked if all the vacancies had been filled.
Ms Ingrid Lanham (Human Resources Manager: AISA) said that there were 55 staff members. Some were on five year contracts, while others were employed for three years. Some of the staff were full-time. They recently advertised for five researchers and three Chief Research Specialists. They hoped that these people could start in July. Their target was to employ the full staff complement of 81 people. They intended to employ at least three more administrators and one more person in the Research unit. The 81 staff complement would include interns.
The Chair requested this plan in writing. He asked how many of these positions were fully funded. He referred to the fact that they had only filled 18 posts by July 2007 and now had a staff of 55. He asked if they felt that the area should be located in the Medium Term Expenditure Framework, since it was important for AISA to have all the staff they required.
Mr S Nxumalo (ANC) asked what past challenges the presenters had referred to and what had brought about a positive change.
Mr Matlou said that AISA had lost their CEO in February 2006 and their Chief Financial Officer in July. The organization had effectively been run by a Management Committee and headed by the Director of Research and the Acting CFO. The new Council was appointed in 2007. Mr Matlou had started on 1 September 2007, while the new CFO, Mr Brian Seabela had started in November 2007. Ms Lanham had started as Human Resources Manager in December 2007 and Ms Nadema Jainoo as Manager of Corporate Affairs in January 2008. The Directors of Publications and LDS also started in January 2008. The Executive Director of Research started in May 2008. Thus there had been a leadership vacuum, which resulted in much or the work being left undone. In addition, the organization had been faced with internal divisions and a lack of performance culture. Upon his appointment, the Council had been helpful and so had the Minister and the Department. In March 2008 the Minister had commented that the organization had had a negative past, but he had praised the way in which they were currently tackling their challenges.
Mr Nxumalo asked about the organizational design and wanted to know who was responsible for capacity building.
Ms Lanham said that initially there had been no clarity on certain issues, like reporting structures within the organisation. There had also been disparity between the salaries of persons occupying the same positions. The issue of capped leave, as well as poor leave records had also presented challenges. The issue regarding the disparity of salaries had been outsourced to a company called Twenty First Century. In accordance with AISA’s policies on preferential procurement and Black Economic Empowerment, issues concerning the organizational structure and job complexities and grading were outsourced to a company headed by a Black woman.
Ms N Mdlala- Routlegde (ANC) commented that it was strange that the organization was only doing commissioned research now, given the fact that it had been in existence for forty years.
Mr Matlou responded that they had done this type of research in the past. In 2004 they had been commissioned to do research on the African Diaspora. They hoped to become the first port of call for any organization which wanted information on Africa. They were already involved in a book on the Democratic Republic of Congo and were currently working on a book with the Chinese. While they had always done such research, they now realized that they could get paid for it.
Ms Mdlala-Routledge asked if AISA was not better located in the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Mr Matlou replied that the Council had already pronounced on this matter. If they were to become a Foreign Affairs research unit, they would lose the relative independence they had, which enabled them to hold different views to those of Government (for example with regard to Kenya, Zimbabwe and the issue of xenophobia in SA). They obtained their funding from Parliament, which meant that ultimately they had an obligation to the taxpayers. Also, the Department of Science and Technology had to interpret “science” to include the social sciences.
Mr B Mnyandu (ANC) referred to the fact that of the five research units located within the Department, only the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) had developed a position on intellectual property. He asked what arrangements AISA had made to deal with this issue.
Mr Matlou said that AISA was not as advanced as the HSRC on this matter. They would contact the HSRC to find out how they dealt with intellectual property.
Mr Mnyandu said that he had heard someone from the Portfolio Committee on Foreign Affairs say that AISA would be moving to the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Mr Matlou responded that this matter had not been mentioned to them formally. The AISA Council had already pronounced on this matter.
Mr Mnyandu asked if plagiarism was a problem within AISA.
Mr Matlou answered that they owned software called “Hummingbird”, which could detect plagiarism. This was done by tracking usage of style and particular words. They have not really had this problem in the organization. Once the research policy was adopted, they had let people know about the consequences of plagiarism.
Mr Silau (ANC) referred to the increase in the price of oil and other goods. He asked if AISA had considered that their budget might need to be changed in the light of these economic changes.
Mr Matlou replied that they were no longer going to depend only on the government allocation. The outstanding monies would be collected by various fundraising ventures. They were no longer going to give information for free as they had done in the past. Previously they had provided information to companies who wanted to open businesses in Africa.
Mr Silau wanted more information on when the panel discussion would be held with Minister Pallo Jordon on the issues of xenophobia.
Mr Matlou said that the discussion at a gala dinner would be held on Sunday at the Natural Cultural Museum between 13h00 and 18h00. One of the issues to be discussed was that of identity, which was linked to xenophobia.
The Chair asked for information on the event.
Mr Matlou said that he was prepared to pull staff members from the event to make space for Members.
The Chair said that this was not necessary.
Mr J Blanche (DA) said that AISA’s activities seemed to be duplicating the work of the HSRC. He asked what this organization had achieved, which justified their existence as a separate entity.
Mr Matlou replied that the HSRC had traditionally done their work within SA. AISA’s mandate was related to Africa as a whole. Perhaps due to the turbulence in the organization, it would become necessary to rebuild the organization so as to increase areas of specialty.
Mr Blanche asked how many members AISA had.
Mr Matlou asked if they could provide the Committee with these figures at a later date, as they had yet to be determined.
The Chair suggested that they also provided the Committee with a membership profile.
Mr Blanche asked why people should use their library when they were located in Tshwane, which had the biggest library in the country.
Mr Matlou answered that AISA’s library concentrated on African affairs. It had more than 85 000 documents dealing with African issues. Although there was a bigger library in the United States dealing with Africa, its focus was limited to the Diaspora.
Mr Blanche expressed his disapproval at AISA training officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs. He said that that Department had its own budget for training and should not be using AISA for that purpose.
Mr Matlou replied that he had not said that AISA was training Foreign Affairs officials. He had said that they had submitted Curricula Vitae to be placed on their list of trainers. That Department did not only use people within their own Department to conduct training. AISA had responded to a tender notice and would provide a service to that Department if chosen.
Mr Blanche said that he had never heard of a city twinning with an organization. He therefore did not think it was appropriate for Tswane to be twinning with AISA.
Mr Matlou pointed out that he had not said that AISA would be twinning with Tswane. They were entering into MOUs with the municipal manager. These agreements would be mutually beneficial to the parties involved.
Mr Blanche said that an organisation showed its strength if it subjected itself to peer review. In Sweden the research organizations were peer overseers of each other’s work. Thus they would first let their peers examine their work before putting it out there for others to read. AISA should be measured on their output. He asked where they stood in relation to their peers.
Mr Matlou responded that AISA subjected their work to blind peer review internally and externally. Their peer review journal was accredited by the Department of Education, which was indicative of the fact that it met the required standards.
Mr Blanche referred to North African countries around the Mediterranean Sea. He said that it was senseless calling themselves the Africa Institute of South Africa when a part of the continent had closer ties to Europe culturally, economically and educationally.
Mr Matlou explained that AISA’s researchers would never be able to cover the entire continent of Africa, which meant that they have had to build networks and collaborate with researchers doing work on African issues. This work was done under the AISA umbrella. There had been a researcher working with them on North African issues. They also were working with a Sudanese specialist. However, the strengths of AISA lay in Southern, Central and East Africa.
The Chair referred to the ‘dark period’ within the organization and said that it was important for the organization to learn from the past. Their marketing needed strengthening. They also needed to increase their capacity to undertake this function. They needed to be assertive with companies requesting information for the purpose of expanding into Africa. These companies should become their subscribers. They needed to send people to network with Parliament and government departments. Their work would need to be documented and made available to the Committee to provide a better understanding about what they did.
Mr Matlou replied that they were taking note of the suggestions for improved marketing. They would work on making themselves more visible.
The Chair asked about the R1.5 million given to the organization by the Presidency.
Mr Matlou said that this was to be used for young graduates from universities in SA and other African countries. They would be attending the Annual Conference of the Guggenheim Foundation. The participants had been given $2 000 to conduct research which would be presented at the Conference. The aim was to assist participants to grow in the areas of research and publication.
The Chair reminded AISA to provide the Committee with their plan to fill vacancies. He also referred to the programme in terms of which they would link up with secondary schools. He requested AISA to provide more information on these schools so that Members could track progress at schools in their respective constituencies.
Mr Mnyandu expressed concern about the fact that AISA was providing the Chinese with information on the African continent, given the fact that China was already infiltrating the markets in Africa. He felt that information should only be made available to them at a high price.
Mr Matlou agreed, saying that other people were studying the dynamics in Africa, while Africans were not doing the same to other countries.
The Chair pointed out that China had already been studying Africa for years. It was necessary for South Africa to do the same by learning about other countries. It was for this reason that training people to speak French was a good idea.
The Chair referred to the AISA rollover of R12, 5 million.
Mr Brian Seabela (CFO: AISA) said that this was a misunderstanding, since the rollover was only R6 million.
The Chair requested a written submission on this as National Treasury had informed the Committee that the rollover was R12.5 million.
The Chair allowed the Executive Director of the National Research Foundation to pose questions.
Mr Rocky Skeef (Executive Director: National Research Foundation) asked what the racial composition of AISA was, given the fact that it had been in existence for such a long time.
Mr Skeef asked if AISA had heard of the International Council for Science (ICSU) Regional Office for Africa.
Mr Skeef also asked if the name Africa Institute in South Africa was not preferable to Africa Institute for South Africa. The former implied that they were merely based in SA but were an African institute.
The Chair said that Mr Skeef’s questions should be noted by Members and AISA. They could engage with him further after the meeting. The Chair said that the Committee would see if they could conduct oversight visits in June 2008. The Budget debate would be held on 30 May 2008.
The Chair adjourned the meeting.
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