Tshilidzi Marwala
News - 3 weeks ago

Meet Tshilidzi Marwala, the African Trailblazer to Head the United Nations University

Prof. Tshilidzi Marwala made history on the 25th of July 2022 as he was elected as the new Rector of the United Nations University (UNU). The newly elected Rector will succeed Dr David Malone, who served from 2013 to 2023.

Marwala is to assume the position on March 1st, 2023 and serve a five-year tenure. This makes the South African professor the seventh Rector of the University.

This position was, however, not given on a platter of gold to the multi-faceted academician. He earned it through his vast academic experience. This involves interdisciplinary research that ranges from theory and applications of artificial intelligence to engineering, social science, economics, politics, finance, and medicine.

After entering the position, Marwala will be based in Tokyo, the United Nations University Headquarters. There, he will serve as the chief academic and administrative officer for the academic and research arm of the United Nations (UN) in Tokyo, Japan.

Meet Tshilidzi Marwala

The South African-born and bred Tshilidzi Marwala had his formative years in the southernmost country on the continent. There, he attended Mbilwi Secondary School and St.John’s College. He then went on to build a career for himself in the IT space and academics. 

Marwala earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering  (magna cum laude) from Case Western Reserve University in 1995; a Master of Mechanical Engineering degree from the University of Pretoria (South Africa – 1997); and became a certified PhD holder in artificial intelligence engineering from the University of Cambridge in 2000.

The South African professor is also a certified leader from his Columbia Business School’s Advanced Management Program and the Harvard Business School’s Program for Leadership Development.

After attaining the educational milestone, he worked at the South African Breweries from 2001 to 2003. He served as the Executive Assistant to the Technical Director. He joggled this with his Post-Doctoral Research Associate from 2000 to 2001 at the Imperial College (previously known as the University of London).

Although a tech expert, he delved into the academic space where he became a University administrator.

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As an Academician

Tshilidzi Marwala
United Nations University

After graduating, Tshilidzi Marwala served in different positions in the academic world with an impressive record to his name. One of such was during his service as the Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Johannesburg, South Africa. 

While in the office, he placed the university within the fourth industrial revolution. This was geared towards attaining the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

From his record, he is indeed an educational administrator with years of experience that dates back to 2001. 

From 2003 to 2008, while at the University of the Witwatersrand, he filled the position of Associate Professor and Full Professor and served as the Carl and Emily Fuchs Chair of Systems and Control Engineering and the SARChI Chair of Systems Engineering. 

The subsequent year to 2013, he served as the Executive Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment. At the end of his tenure, he became the university’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Internationalization from 2013 – 2017.

Landmarks

Though in the academic space, Tshilidzi Marwala is a registered professional engineer and the co-holder of five patents.

He is a  fellow of associations such as the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a Distinguished Member of the Association for Computing Machinery, a Senior Member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS).

Apart from his academic prowess, he is also an author that has published over 20 books, journals, conference papers, and over 200 magazine articles and newspaper op-eds. He is also a registered professional engineer and the co-holder of five patents.

Some of his books are 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).

He also has many awards to his name. This includes the Order of Mapungubwe, South Africa’s highest honour, and the Academy of South Africa’s Science-for-Society Gold Medal.

The Institute of IT Professionals South Africa also named him the 2021 IT Personality of the Year.

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