Science diplomacy in practice – Bridging the European and African continents

Dr Daphne Bitalo
Dr Flavia Schlegel
Mr Frithjof A. Maennel
Pascal Marmier
Prof Mauro Giacca

Dr Daphne Bitalo

Daphne is a geneticist with the National Coffee Research Institute in Uganda. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, an Honour’s degree in Genetics, a Master’s and PhD in Genetics; all of which she attained at Stellenbosch University in South Africa.

Her interests are aligned with effecting genetics in conserving biodiversity for informed national policy and regional diplomacy; as was displayed in her study on the population dynamics of demersal sharks across the Southern Hemisphere. Currently, she is tasked with conserving coffee biodiversity in Uganda, and generate policies for exchange of coffee germplasm across Eastern Africa.

Daphne is one of the fresh graduates of the ASSAF-TWAS-AAAS regional training workshop on science diplomacy recently held in Pretoria in May 2018 and is also a member of the Uganda National Young Academy.

Dr Flavia Schlegel

Flavia Schlegel took up her duties as Assistant Director-General for the Natural Sciences at UNESCO on 1 October 2014.

She is the holder of a Medical Doctorate and a Master’s Degree in Organizational Development.

Flavia Schlegel joined the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health in September 1997, as Director of the AIDS Section. She then became Director of the Health Policy, Research and Education Division. From 2002 to 2004, Ms Schlegel served for the Swiss State Secretariat for Education and Research as Science Counselor for the United States and Canada with the Embassy of Switzerland in Washington D.C. Ms Schlegel returned in October 2004 to the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health taking up the position of Vice-Director, Head of the Public Health Directorate and Member of the Executive Board. In 2008, she was appointed Director of Swissnex China and Vice-Consul General based in Shanghai (China).

During her four-year period in Shanghai, Flavia Schlegel established Swissnex in China; a transdisciplinary institute for Science, Technology, Innovation and Culture, funded by public-private partnership.

Mr Frithjof A.Maennel

Frithiof is Ministerialdirigent (Deputy Director General), studied Law at the Universities of Bonn and Munich. In 1992 he joined the Federal Ministry for Research and Technology, today’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research, where he held various positions. From 1996 to 2005 he worked in the “Internal Market” and the “Information Society” Directorates-General at the European Commission in Brussels and was involved in particular in shaping the legal framework for the information society. He left Brussels to become Head of the “Patent Policy, Inventor Promotion” Division at the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology and was subsequently appointed Head of the “Strategy” Division at the Federal Ministry of Education and Research in 2007, remaining in this position until March 2015. He was appointed Head of the Directorate for International Cooperation in Education and Research at the Federal Ministry of Education and Research in April 2015.

Pascal Marmier

Pascal is a Senior Vice President at the Swiss Re Institute in New York, USA, where he is building up programs and networks in the Americas and in Asia, with a focus on digital transformation, data innovation and emerging markets. A generalist with an MBA from MIT Sloan and an early career as a Swiss and US corporate transaction lawyer, Pascal has a passion and keen understanding for science, technology and innovation at a global level. Prior to his role at Swiss Re, he worked as an entrepreneur within a government context where he was the Executive Director of swissnex Boston, USA for 12 years and then the Executive Director of swssnex Shanghai, China. Pascal is recognized as a “smart connector” who systematically creates value for the people he brings together. Be it individually or in group, he has the ability to understand the overlapping interests and anticipate how people can collaborate in a mutually beneficial way. He also sees potential and builds bridges between people and organizations from different disciplines

Prof Mauro Giacca

Prof. Mauro Giacca

Mauro Giacca, MD PhD, is the Director-General of the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB), an international organization in the United Nations system for advanced research and education, with laboratories in Trieste, Italy, New Delhi, India and Cape Town, South Africa ( He is Full Professor of Molecular Biology at the University of Trieste. His research interest focuses on the development of novel biotherapeutics for cardiovascular disorders, with particular reference to growth factors and microRNAs that induce cardiac regeneration after myocardial infarction. He also maintains a strong interest in the molecular biology of HIV-1 infection.He is the President Elect of the International Society for Heart Research (ISHR), European Section and serves on the Boards of numerous scientific organizations internationally.He has published over 320 papers in peer-reviewed, international journals. He is also active in promoting scientific outreach for the general public. At its laboratories in Cape Town, the ICGEB runs research programmes at the forefront of international scientific excellence on topics of particular relevance to sub-Saharan Africa, in infectious diseases (HIV/AIDS, malaria, TB), non-communicable diseases (cancer) and the regulation of GM products.

In the last few decades, science and technology have had an ever increasing role in foreign policy, defining and consolidating international relations, cooperation agendas and entrepreneurial partnerships between countries.

One of the latest ongoing examples of multilateral scientific cooperation, expression of science diplomacy at its best, is the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), a ground-braking radio-astronomical project centred in Africa that is paving the road to the development of African science and technological infrastructures.

Several nations have established tools to boost bilateral and multilateral scientific cooperation to develop projects, common high-tech research and ease joint technology transfer and innovation. Germany, Italy and Switzerland are no exception.

The session will focus on practical examples of science diplomacy with South Africa and the African continent: health innovation, where Germany is investing 50 million Euros in five years to establish networks in Sub-Saharan Africa, bio-tech and genetic engineering, in which Italy is steadily investing around 10 million Euros per year to support the activities of the International Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology and innovation, where Switzerland collaborates with South Africa in supporting South African and Swiss entrepreneurs through joint initiatives.

The discussion will also emphasize the “innovation diplomacy” aspect of cooperation, considering the role of science, technology and innovation collaborations in mutually beneficial economic growth.