University of Pretoria prof wins big science, tech prize

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The African Academy of Sciences (AAS) has named professor Daniël Christiaan de Wet Swanepoel from the University of Pretoria the winner of the Olusegun Obasanjo Prize for Scientific Breakthrough and/or Technological Innovation.

According to a statement, De Wet Swanepoel was selected for the award for his innovative and “highly impactful” research work in tele-health and mobile health (m-health), specifically in the field of audiology.

Furthermore, he has collaborated on and conducted numerous research studies on using smartphone technologies to provide equitable access to hearing healthcare services, especially in low- and middle-income countries.

“Congratulations to Prof Daniël Christiaan De Wet Swanepoel for achieving this feat,” says professor Felix Dapare Dakora, president of AAS. “This award is a testament to his ingenuity in audiology and his dedication to improving the quality of life of Africans suffering from hearing impairment.

“Prof Swanepoel has pushed the boundaries in science to come up with innovative and impactful solutions to improve ‘ear and hearing care’ in Africa. As I extend my congratulations to him, I also welcome him to our growing membership of fellows.”

Named after former president of Nigeria, chief Olusegun Obasanjo, the AAS awards the Obasanjo Prize every two years. The prize is intended to reward and honour African scientists who have made outstanding contributions in scientific discovery or technological innovation.

Other notable South African winners include professors Salim Abdool Karim and Quarraisha Abdool Karim, who are renowned for their research in HIV/AIDS and, more recently, COVID-19.

Winners also automatically become fellows of the AAS as individuals who have reached the highest level of excellence in their field of expertise and have made contributions to the advancement of the field on the African continent.

“It is an honour to receive this prestigious award and it serves as a further inspiration to see access to healthy hearing become a reality for every African,” says De Wet Swanepoel.

De Wet Swanepoel will be awarded his prize during the virtual 12th AAS General Assembly (GA). He will receive a prize of $5 000 and also give a public lecture at the GA event, which takes place from today to 9 December.

As per tradition, the AAS organises the GA event with a country co-host, and this time, the continental academy is collaborating with the British University in Egypt (BUE).

Professor Barthelemy Nyasse, secretary-general of the AAS and host of the meeting, says: “We are pleased to be hosting the 12th GA in collaboration with the BUE. With this event, we are not only providing a platform to showcase our achievements as an academy, but also that of science in Africa and to provide a platform to raise the profile of our scientists.”

Professor Yehia Bahei-El-Din, BUE vice-president for research, adds: “We are delighted to be the first university to host AAS GA in Egypt and we see this as an opportunity to boost collaboration between researchers across Africa, as well as pave the way for exchange of scientists.”

The 12th GA, which will also induct new fellows and affiliates who joined the AAS in 2019, will include a session for scientists to showcase their research, which will be open to the public.

Professor De Wet Swanepoel’s public lecture can be watched at 10:00 East Africa Time on 9 December via this link.

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