Control Conference Africa (CCA) 2021 – Sponsorship of deserving academics and graduate students from Africa

Contact: Dr Kevin Brooks, University of the Witwatersrand, Sponsoring IFAC Body: South African Council for Automation and Control (SACAC)

As proposed in section 5 of the initial application, the Control Conference Africa 2021  (CCA2021) took place on the 7th and 8th of December in Muldersdrift, South Africa and virtually all around the world.  Professor Eric Kerrigan served as IPC  chair and the co-chair was  Dr Derik le Roux.  The editor was Dr Murray Bwalya, and the IPC Vice-chair for industry was Dr Loujtie Coetzee from Mintek.  The NOC was chaired by Dr Kevin Brooks, ably assisted by co-chairs Professor Sayed Hassen and Professor Steven Bradshaw of Stellenbosch University. The Vice-chair from Industry was Dr Laurentz Olivier, Dr Lidia Auret and Mr Anshu Murdan managed communications and hybrid arrangements.

The kind support from the IFAC Activity Fund allowed the organisers to offer six sponsorships, three to academics and three to students.  Eight applications were received and the sponsorships were awarded to the six authors whose papers were accepted on the recommendation of the associate editors.  SACAC waived the registration fees for these authors.  One condition of the sponsorship was that the author should present their paper in person.

The total registration for the conference was 49 people, with 33 being for physical attendance and 16 virtual attendees.  With exquisitely bad timing the Omicron variant was first reported in South Africa on the 24th of November.  The organisers had no choice but to allow delegates to modify their registration from physical to virtual.  Unfortunately, 5 of the 6 sponsorship recipients chose to do so.

The organisers had put plans in place for this situation and, using a popular modern term, pivoted their efforts into ensuring that the best possible hybrid event was delivered. All authors and plenary speakers had been requested to provide a video of their presentation, and the decision was made that all virtual presentations would consist of a broadcast of the recording, to avoid any bandwidth issues.  Despite this, authors were encouraged to be at the session in which their paper was presented, and all Q&A was conducted in person.  In this way, the conference retained the aspect of “confer” which is a vital part of such an event.

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