26 July, Tokyo ― The United Nations University (UNU) is pleased to announce that Prof. Tshilidzi Marwala of South Africa, currently Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Johannesburg, has been appointed as the next Rector of UNU.
Prof. Marwala will take office as Rector of the United Nations University on 1 March 2023 for a five-year term, succeeding current Rector Dr David Malone (2013‒2023). In the role of UNU Rector, Prof. Marwala will hold the rank of Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations. He will be based at UNU Headquarters in Tokyo.
The official announcement of Prof. Marwala’s appointment was made by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres in New York on 25 July. As stipulated by the UNU Charter, the UNU Rector is selected and appointed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations in consultation with, and with the concurrence of, the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, chosen from a panel of candidates nominated by the UNU Council.
The Secretary-General said of the appointment: “I look forward to working with Tshilidzi Marwala, drawing on his expertise, and benefiting from UNU’s thought leadership as we work towards fulfilling Our Common Agenda while building on the successful work of his predecessor, David Malone, under whom UNU evolved into the UN’s policy-focused think tank, trusted by UN agencies, Member States, and many others.”
Since 2018, Prof. Marwala has served as Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Johannesburg (South Africa), a university of more than 50,000 students and nearly 6,000 academic and support staff. His previous positions with the University of Johannesburg included Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research and Internationalization (2013‒2017) and Executive Dean, Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment (2009–2013).
Prof. Marwala previously had served as Associate Professor and then full Professor at the University of Witwatersrand (South Africa; 2003‒2008); as Executive Assistant to the Technical Director, South African Breweries (2001–2003); and as Post-Doctoral Research Associate, Imperial College (UK; 2000–2001).
Prof. Marwala is the author of more than 20 books ― most recently, Leadership Lessons from Books I Read (2021) and Closing the Gap: The Fourth Industrial Revolution in Africa (2020) ― and dozens of book chapters, journal papers, and conference papers. He has also published over 200 magazine articles and newspaper op-eds, primarily on artificial intelligence, big data, and the fourth industrial revolution.
Prof. Marwala holds a PhD degree in Engineering from the University of Cambridge (UK), as well as a Master of Engineering degree from the University of Pretoria (South Africa) and a Bachelor of Science degree from Case Western Reserve University (USA).
On behalf of the Governing Council of the United Nations University, Council Chair Prof. Funmi Olonisakin said of the appointment: “I wish Prof. Marwala a warm welcome and look forward to working with him in realizing the important mission of UNU as a convenor and in bringing the research and policy communities in the Global South and North closer together.”
The United Nations University, with headquarters in Tokyo, Japan, was established in 1975 as a global research and teaching organization; UNU currently has institutes in 12 countries worldwide. The overarching goal of the University is to contribute to global sustainable development that will enable both present and future generations to live a decent life in peace, freedom, safety, and good health.
In carrying out its work, UNU focuses on research, teaching, and capacity building and provides science-based advisory services as a United Nations system think tank. UNU maintains close cooperative relationships with other United Nations system organizations (agencies, programmes, commissions, funds, and convention secretariats) and works in formal and informal partnerships with leading universities, research institutions, and public sector organizations all over the world.
Welcoming his successor, UNU Rector David Malone said: ”I am delighted to be succeeded by a very distinguished academic leader from the Global South, and will ensure an orderly and productive transition that will serve UNU’s mission, research, and excellent team and, of course, my designated successor as he prepares to join UNU on March 1, 2023.”
Profile of UNU Rector-designate Tshilidzi Marwala
Prof. Tshilidzi Marwala will join the United Nations University (UNU) as the University’s seventh Rector on 1 March 2023. He will hold the rank of Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations in that role.
Since January 2018, Prof. Marwala has served as Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Johannesburg in South Africa. Under his leadership, he has positioned the university within the fourth industrial revolution to harness solutions to help Africa achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals. He previously was the university’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Internationalization (2013‒2017) and Executive Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment (2009–2013).
From 2003 to 2008, while with the University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa), he progressively held the positions of Associate Professor and Full Professor, also serving as the Carl and Emily Fuchs Chair of Systems and Control Engineering and the SARChI Chair of Systems Engineering. From 2001 to 2003, he was Executive Assistant to the Technical Director at South African Breweries, and from 2000 to 2001, he was a Post-Doctoral Research Associate at Imperial College (then University of London).
He has been a visiting scholar/professor at Harvard University; University of California, Berkeley; Wolfson College, University of Cambridge; Nanjing Tech University (China); Central South University (China); and the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study.
Prof. Marwala has extensive academic, policy, management, and international experience. His research has been multi-disciplinary, involving the theory and applications of artificial intelligence to engineering, social science, economics, politics, finance, and medicine. He is a registered professional engineer and the co-holder of five patents.
He received a PhD degree, specialising in Artificial Intelligence and Engineering, from the University of Cambridge (UK) in 2000; a Master of Mechanical Engineering degree from the University of Pretoria (South Africa) in 1997; and a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering (magna cum laude) from Case Western Reserve University (USA) in 1995. He also completed the Columbia Business School’s Advanced Management Program and the Harvard Business School’s Program for Leadership Development.
Prof. Marwala is, inter alia, a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS), the Academy of Science of South Africa, the African Academy of Sciences, and the South African Academy of Engineering; a Senior Member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers; and a Distinguished Member of the Association for Computing Machinery. He has served on a variety of global and national policymaking bodies, including as Deputy Chair of South Africa’s Presidential Commission on the Fourth Industrial Revolution. He has also worked with the United Nations through agencies such as UNESCO, UNICEF, WHO, and WIPO.
Prof. Marwala is the author of more than 20 books ― including Leadership Lessons from Books I Read (2021), Leading in the 21st Century: The Call for a New Type of African Leader (2021), and Closing the Gap: The Fourth Industrial Revolution in Africa (2020) ― and dozens of book chapters, journal papers, and conference papers. He has published more than 200 magazine articles and newspaper op-eds.
Prof. Marwala has received numerous awards, including the Order of Mapungubwe, South Africa’s highest honour, and the Academy of South Africa’s Science-for-Society Gold Medal, and was named the 2021 IT Personality of the Year by the Institute of IT Professionals South Africa.