Dr Rachel Chikwamba is the CSIR Group Executive: Chemicals, Agriculture, Food and Health. In this role, she leads the implementation of the CSIR Strategy in the respective sectors, working closely with academia, and the public and private sector partners locally and internationally to contribute to improved sectoral competitiveness and economic performance through innovation.
She is also responsible for Project Synapse, an initiative that defined a renewed vision and mission of the organisation, strategic objectives, the programmatic focus areas, operating and business models, as well as the strategy implementation plan. This process culminated in the new organisational strategy that was approved by the Board in August 2018. She currently has oversight of the Synapse implementation, which seeks to fulfil the execution of the organisational strategy.
In one of her recent organisational roles, Rachel was responsible for leading the organisation’s legal, management services, enterprise risk management and facilities’ departments. Prior to that, she was the Group Executive for Strategic Alliances and Communication, where she championed organisational alliances with local and global partners in the public and private sectors, in order to advance knowledge and address challenges of socioeconomic and industrial development through science, technology and innovation.
Beginning as a researcher, her technical experience spans the life sciences across many disciplines, notably the agriculture, health and nutrition and biomedical sectors. In her organisational roles and assignments, she has gained sound understanding of science and technology application in a variety of other technology domains and sectors aligned with the CSIR business. She has led and participated in several global research consortia and has been principal investigator in many locally and internationally funded research initiatives. Rachel has also led many cross-functional multidisciplinary teams to achieve organisational strategic initiatives in fulfilment of the organisation’s mandate.
Rachel sits on boards of various organisations, focusing on agriculture, conservation and health, notably the Global Governing Board of ICRISAT, the Board of Directors of the Wits Health Consortium (Pty) Ltd and the South African Medical Research Council. She was recently appointed to the African Union (AU) Panel on Emerging Technologies. The panel advises the AU and its Member States on harnessing emerging technologies for economic development. She has served as an editorial board member for several international journals and a reviewer for local and international funding organisations. She has published book chapters and peer-reviewed scientific publications.
Rachel holds a PhD in Genetics from Iowa State University in the USA and a Master of Business Administration from the Gordon Institute of Business Science at the University of Pretoria in South Africa. She is a member of the Academy of Science of South Africa and has held an Honorary Research Fellowship at St Georges Hospital Medical School, University of London. Rachel joined the CSIR in December 2004 from Arizona State University, USA, where she served as a postdoctoral research associate.