The Africa Unit for Transdisciplinary Health Research(AUTHeR) within the Faculty of Health Sciences at the North-West University proudly hosted the first Africa Conference on Transdisciplinarity as an online event on 4 August 2021 with over 500 registered delegates. The conference aimed to create conversations around multidisciplinary-, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research to create realistic solutions to real-life health challenges. These challenges are mainly complex, wicked problems that require a holistic approach. Holistic approaches include strategies like community-based participatory action research, community engagement and integration of research in practice.  The theme of the virtual conference was: Transdisciplinary responses to grand challenges in the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. The conference’s purpose was to share scientific and indigenous knowledge practices on transdisciplinarity on the African continent towards well-being for all. The conference included the following tracts:

Tract 1: Transdisciplinarity and communities

Tract 2: Transdisciplinarity and Health Systems

Tract 3: Transdisciplinarity and well-being

Types of presentations included:

  1. Keynote speakers: 30-minute presentation
  2. Plenary sessions: 30-minute presentation
  3. Group/panel discussions of issues relevant to conference: 30-minute presentation 15-minute engagement with the audience
  4. Rapid fire sessions (present intervention/study in 5-7 minutes)

The conference’s outcome is to establish the Africa Transdisciplinarity Network to strengthen the transdisciplinary network further and provide a platform for further conversation.  If you would like to register as a member of the network, please do so at the following link:

AUTHeR would like to thank each participant, presenter, and organiser who contributed to the day’s success.

Christi Niesing

Herewith is a reflection on the event as described by one of our lecturers in AUTHeR.

My personal experience of the online event: First Africa Conference on Transdisciplinarity (ACT-1)

The first Africa Conference on Transdisciplinarity (ACT-1) was an online event hosted by the Africa Unit for Transdisciplinary Health Research (AUTHeR) of the North-West University (NWU) on 4 August 2021. I was part of the Organisational team from AUTHeR and a co-presenter forming part of a panel discussion while being one of the 500+ delegates registered for the event. This gave me a glimpse of the event from various perspectives. If I recall correctly, there were approximately 15 – 40 attendees in every track at most times throughout the day. This is notable for a first attempt at what we at AUTHeR hope will become a well-supported annual event. So please keep a lookout for the next ACT event coming your way soon.

When reflecting on ACT-1, I recall a programme that offered something for everyone, with keynote speakers and presenters knowledgeable in their field of expertise. Not only were the keynote addresses of an excellent standard, but the exciting topics covered during the panel discussions, oral presentations and rapid-fire-sessions within the three parallel tracks (1) Transdisciplinarity and communities, (2) Transdisciplinarity and Health Systems, and (3) Transdisciplinarity and Well-being, made the day worth it. Overall, I think the event was a great success.

This day again highlighted some of the core essentials of transdisciplinarity, including co-learning and co-creation of solutions, not only by a group of scientific experts but also through crossing multi-sectoral boundaries, including the very communities we are working with to find solutions together. As transdisciplinary researchers together with our community members and various stakeholder groups, we need to set time aside to have those difficult conversations about problems that seem unsolvable. Because together, we can make a difference.

Karlien van Schalkwyk