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Top women in tech and science – reshaping the narrative

Dr Rachel Chikwamba - CSIR Group Executive: Advanced Chemistry and Life Sciences

Written by Staff Writer

September 6, 2022

By Council for Scientific and Industrial Research

The science and technology industry has always been considered predominantly male; however, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research’s (CSIR) women are reshaping this narrative by using their scientific expertise to develop and drive research and development strategies that support the development of a capable state, enable local industry to stay ahead of the curve and, ultimately, contribute towards honing a knowledge economy that enables socioeconomic growth.


The CSIR’s Dr Rachel Chikwamba was listed by Apolitical as one of the most influential people navigating disruption. As the Group Executive for the Advanced Chemistry and Life

Sciences division, Dr Chikwamba believes that collaborative initiatives with local and international partners in academia, and the public and private sectors are imperatives that contribute towards the development of relevant industry- facing strategies.

Dr Chikwamba spearheaded the implementation of the CSIR Strategy towards improved sectoral competitiveness and economic performance through innovation.

Her keen interest in innovation has seen her steer the ships of many cross-functional multidisciplinary teams to achieve the CSIR’s strategic initiatives. She has also led and participated in several global research consortia and has been the principal investigator in many locally and internationally funded research initiatives. 

A geneticist by training, Chikwamba has a keen interest in broadening access to highly effective vaccines and therapeutics to populations in low and middle-income countries, particularly in Africa, where access is limited predominantly by supply and cost. She has approached this by focusing on translational research to develop potentially cost-effective production methods for biologics on the African continent, working towards upgrading these facilities to support the local production of value pharmaceuticals. 

Among the several advisory boards that she serves on, Chikwamba was recently appointed to the African Union Panel on Emerging Technologies, where she advises its Member States on harnessing emerging technologies for economic development.



Sibongile Ntsoelengoe: Executive Manager for future production: Mining

Known for being a leader in the field of mine modernisation, the CSIR’s Sibongile Ntsoelengoe is pioneering the CSIR’s value offering in Future Production: Mining. Her technical expertise in iron ore and base metal commodities, which spans over fifteen years, has seen her tap into her experience to spearhead a digital technology strategy and innovation roadmap, which revolutionised the local mining industry.

As a result, she continues to be an industry expert on how research and innovation can be used to drive the modernisation of mines in South Africa.

Ntsoelengoe has held various positions in the mining industry, which has given her experience in the processing of minerals. She has delivered capital projects in the mining industry, the development of bespoke technology research, appropriate innovations that helped accelerate modernisation across the mining value chain. This includes the marketing of commodities. 

She also previously served as a member of the innovation steering committee at the Minerals Council of South Africa and is currently a Council Member of the South African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy. As a leading scientific and technology research organisation, the CSIR prides itself in attracting top women in research

and development who have the technical know-how to shape and shift South Africa’s local industry. 

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