“Failure is an event, not a person.” – Zig Ziglar

Edwin Hlangwani



Organisation / Company

University of Johannesburg


Edwin Hlangwani, 27, is a lecturer and researcher at the University of Johannesburg. His research work focuses on creating a nexus between emerging technologies and indigenous knowledge systems to develop, optimise and mobilise sustainable food systems in rural and semi-urban areas.

As part of his research, he designed mathematical models and prototypes that simulate large-scale production of traditional foods such as vukanyi (marula fruit beer), karri (Khoi-San honey mead), umqombothi (sorghum beer) and vucema (palm wine). He is at the final stages of submitting his PhD thesis, which explores indigenous knowledge around the sustainable use of wild fruits and edible medicinal plants such as devil’s claw.

Through his thesis, he aims to demonstrate that South Africa is a model country for scientific exploration, given its diverse ecosystems and ancient traditions. Hlangwani is a recipient of the NRF-Mitacs Research Award for completing an extended joint research project on “The structure, biochemistry, and function of metabolites produced by Metschnikowia pulcherrima during the fermentation of low-alcohol marula fruit beer at near 0 degrees Celsius” at the University of British Columbia Food Process Engineering Laboratory in Canada.


  • University of Johannesburg, Doctor of Philosophy: Biotechnology
  • University of Johannesburg, Master of Science: Biotechnology (cum laude)
  • University of Johannesburg, Bachelor of Technology: Biotechnology
  • Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT), Diploma: Biotechnology
  • Biochemist’s Guide, Certificate: Practical Python for Beginners: A Biochemist’s Guide


In 2018 I graduated with a national diploma in biotechnology at Cape Peninsula University of Technology. I am the first to graduate in my family, and having my family around in attendance at the graduation ceremony was and continues to be a memorable moment for me. Indeed, this has been a monumental achievement for us. Since then, I have completed a Master of Science (cum laude) and am about to submit my doctoral degree thesis in the same discipline at the University of Johannesburg.

My thesis heavily depends on indigenous knowledge around the sustainable use of wild fruits such as marula and edible medicinal plants such as Devil’s Claw. Exploring the use of these resources within the context of their communities has taught me about the intricate tapestries that exist between an ecosystem, its inhabitants, and the subsequent culture. As a result, I believe I can demonstrate that South Africa is a model country given its diverse ecosystems and ancient traditions, making it exciting to scientifically explore. I have also become intentional about applying a Grassroots Approach, which requires a lived experience, fully immersed in the cultural, socioeconomic, and geopolitical nuances of the community on which my work is based.


There have been mentors or role models that have influenced my journey:
Professor SKO Ntwampe, Dr H du Plessis, Dr M Mewa-Ngongang, Dr S Chidi, Dr KL Mpye, Dr L Matsuro, Professor P Njobeh, Professor E Green, Professor Kondiah Kulsum, and Professor Edwin Bbenkele have played an instrumental role in my journey.