Selected from a record entry of 217 applications from 26 different countries in Africa, Dr Bernard Coetzee, from the University of the Witwatersrand’s (Wits') Global Change Institute, has been announced as the winner of the second yearly $150 000 Jennifer Ward Oppenheimer (JWO) Grant, at an event hosted by Oppenheimer Generations at Circa Gallery, in Rosebank, Johannesburg.
The aim of the JWO Grant is to support an African-led research programme that has the potential to significantly contribute to the advancement of environmental and allied sciences ‒ specifically to identify and address real-world issues that affect Africa.
Coetzee’s research aims to understand the impact of the use of artificial light in Africa and how it may increase vector disease transmission, such as malaria, zika and dengue fever.
Mosquitos, for example, cause an estimated 700 000 deaths a year globally and affect millions of people in Africa. His research also investigates the impact of artificial light on biodiversity.
This understanding is expected to ensure the promotion of affordable and energy efficient artificial lighting technologies at the household scale that do not increase human health risks or compromise the attainment of the sustainable development goals.
“I am so grateful for the opportunity I have been given to undertake this important research. I look forward to expanding the network across Africa and collaborating in a way that makes our proposed solutions to the benefit not only of development and growth on the continent but also for the good health and wellbeing of our people,” said Coetzee, who is an honorary research fellow at Wits.
The JWO Grant provides funding to allow researchers to investigate options and provide evidence to assist with decision-making with regard to natural resources and encourages practical action to implement innovative solutions at local, regional and national levels for the benefit of their populations.
“We congratulate Dr Coetzee on his superb proposal and we are excited about what his research will tell us about this important, understudied topic. We also want to thank all 217 participants this year. It was a tough decision due to the exceptionally high quality of the submissions.
"While there can be only one winner, we would encourage all those who applied to the JWO Grant to continue pursuing their work to propose solutions that develop Africa in a sustainable way,” said Oppenheimer Generations Philanthropies head and JWO grant expert panel chair Bridget Fury.
Under normal circumstances, the announcement of the JWO Grant 2020 winner would have been made at the Oppenheimer Research Conference (ORC), which takes place yearly.
However, owing to Covid-19, the conference, which would have taken place this week, has been postponed to May 10 to 12, 2021.