MISTRA Annual Report
The year under review has been a momentous one for South Africa, with changes in the country’s political leadership, the public airing of instances of malfeasance and the beginning of electoral contestation. On the African continent and in the broader global arena, major developments have taken place in the political economy, with significant implications for humanity’s future. All this underlines the critical importance of
a strong ‘think industry’ and the need, in particular, for strategic reflections on issues beyond the immediate horizon.
During the period under review, MISTRA completed three priority research projects on Traditional Leaders in a Democracy: Resources, Respect and Resistance; The Future of Mining in South Africa: Sunset or Sunrise? ; and Beyond Imagination: The Ethics and Applications of Nanotechnology and Bio-Economics in South Africa. The books were accompanied by policy briefs and a variety of engagements aimed at embedding the recommendations into planning and policy generation by public, private and other stakeholders. The engagements variously included roundtables, presentations at a range of fora and consultancy work informed by the outcomes of the research.
In June 2018, MISTRA – in partnership with various stakeholders – launched the Indlulamithi South Africa Scenarios 2030. The initiative focuses on social cohesion and, drawing on extensive research and consultations, it maps out probable trajectories that South African society can follow in the next decade. Building on the pre-launch consultations, the Indlulamithi team presented the storylines to a variety of leaders across the country, facilitating debate and wind-tunnelling.
MISTRA has also continued with scenario planning on transitioning to a low-carbon future. This forms part of the unique offerings provided by the Institute to clients, amongwhich were contributions to preparations for the Jobs Summit and peer review of sections of the government’s Twenty-Five Year Review. At the same time, the work on the Hydrogen Economy has continued apace, with the annual roundtable of stakeholders and continuing research on the desirability and practicability of establishing a Platinum Group Metals (PGM)
Exchange in South Africa.
The Institute also published a book on Whiteness, Afrikaans, Afrikaners, based on a conference held earlier to take forward discourse on nation formation and social cohesion.
To extend the reach and deepen the impact of the Institute, MISTRA staff participated in a variety of seminars, conferences and panel discussions in South Africa and abroad. These included the Africa Innovation Summit and the Conference on Inclusive Youth Employment as well as events organised by the International Platinum Association, BRICS and the Association for Mathematics Education. The Institute has also intensified public communication through working papers, articles, interviews and social media platforms.
The highlight of MISTRA’s public engagements was the Mapungubwe Annual Lecture which in 2018 was presented by Zimbabwean author, Tsitsi Dangarembga.
Working with its local publishing partner, Jacana Media and a new international distributor, the African Books Collective, the Institute has extended the reach of its publications. Besides distribution on electronic platforms, several publications have had to be reprinted to meet demand.
The long-term planning process which took place in the previous financial year has informed the initiation of new research projects which will be undertaken well into the next decade. These range from the land question to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, political coalitions, the role of the youth and case studies on the fate of South African innovations.
The depth of the Institute’s research is accompanied by robust organisational systems. For the ninth year in a row, MISTRA attained an unqualified audit opinion from its external auditors. The Institute receives wise counsel and undergoes rigorous supervision on these two legs of its work from the Council of Advisors and the Board of Governors. These leaders, the staff, the network of researchers and the donors constitute members of the MISTRA family who are indispensable to the Institute’s success.
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MISTRA Annual Report
During 2021/22, MISTRA launched three comprehensive publications: on the agency of South African youth; on a just transition to a low-carbon future which takes into account protection of the livelihoods of the working people and just transition finance; and on ‘marriages of inconvenience’ which seem to characterise the politics of coalitions in South Africa, and how the dynamics of these can be managed going forward.
MISTRA Annual Report
Eleven years ago, when we established the Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection (MISTRA), we characterised it as ‘an idea whose time has come’. This was based on our assessment of the critical importance of long-term strategic research. But we did not, at that stage, anticipate the overwhelming interest among various sectors of South African society in high-level intellectual engagement which draws from various systems of knowledge and is not constrained by short-term considerations.
As MISTRA was commemorating its tenth anniversary during the 2020/2021 financial year, the world was beleaguered by the COVID-19 pandemic. This experience has further reinforced the centrality of an effective ‘think industry’ within our country and across the globe. It has confirmed MISTRA’s unique and timely addition to the landscape of strategic research and discourse in South Africa.