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Published November 2021

MISTRA Annual Report

2020/21

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.

The pandemic has brought into bold relief existential questions about human civilisation, including the allocation of research resources to core threats facing humanity; the bi-directional relationship between health issues and the political economy; social inequality, and the legitimacy and capacity of the state and societal leaders more broadly.

At the same time, humanity is going through major transitions in the form of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the changing nature of work, as well as the Anthropocene and global warming. In many respects, South Africa is a global social laboratory, where the fault-lines of race, class and gender play out in an intense fashion. If, at inception, the Mapungubwe Institute was a necessary addition to the think industry, its relevance has consistently been confirmed, as humanity is called upon more intensely to use evidence-based research and analysis to learn from and respond appropriately to systemic challenges.

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