Brian Figaji studied at the universities of the Western Cape, Cape Town and South Africa (Unisa) and Harvard University in the USA. He practised as a professional engineer in both contracting and design for 10 years, and then joined what is now the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. Prof Figaji served the institution for 25 years, 10 of which were spent in the role of Vice Chancellor (President). He left the institution in 2004 in opposition to the institution’s pending merger.
Among the many positions he has held, the most significant were:
- member and later Vice-President of the Engineering Council of South Africa;
- member of the South African Council on Higher Education;
- representative of South African on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Executive Board from 2005 to 2009;
- chair of the South African National Commission for UNESCO from 2009 to 2013; and
member of the council advising the President on National Orders (National Presidential Awards) until 2014.
He is also a fellow of the Society for Professional Engineers, a fellow of the Institute for Civil Engineers, a fellow of the Academy of Engineering and a member of the Academy of Science of South Africa.
In the context of civil society he serves on education trusts, a performing arts board, the Board for Blood Transfusion Services, the national board of the Scout Association, environmental bodies such as the WWF Nedbank Green Trust and the Table Mountain Fund, and on a body serving the needs of individuals blinded during wars. Currently, he is also the non-executive Chair of one of the country’s largest fishing companies and is currently also the Chairperson of Wesgro. He is married to Vera and they have two children and three grandchildren.