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Birgit Ottermann


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Birgit Ottermann

ASSAR Strategic Communications Officer, ACDI

Currently resides in: Western Cape, South Africa

Born in Stellenbosch South Africa

I'm an award-winning online journalist, editor and writer with over 10 years' experience in the South African journalism and communication landscape. I love the fast pace and versatility of digital media and to research the endless list of topics that pique my curiosity. I have a special interest in health, food, history, psychology, classical music, travel and the environment. I am hopelessly addicted to travel and used to be an opera singer in my previous career life.

Web presence

Professional details

Current Position(s)

ASSAR Strategic Communications Officer | African Climate & Development Initiative (ACDI) | University of Cape Town
Cape Town, South Africa | December 2016 - present

Marketing, Advertising and Public Relations

I am currently employed as strategic communications officer for the Adaptation at Scale in Semi-Arid Regions (ASSAR) project at the University of Cape Town's African Climate & Development Initiative (ACDI).

The key focus of my job is to strategically lead the communication efforts of ASSAR and to maximise its research impact into policy and practice, within the project’s regional and global spheres of influence.

The ASSAR project's overarching research objective is to better prepare the communities and governments of the semi-arid regions of Africa and Asia for the potential impacts of climate change. To achieve this, ASSAR is conducting high-quality, regionally relevant, and stakeholder-driven research to identify the factors that either prevent or enable widespread and long-term adaptation. ASSAR works across seven countries: Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, India, Mali and Namibia.

Previous Position(s)

Senior Communications Officer (Research Office: Global Strategy and Visibility) | Research Office | University of Cape Town
Cape Town, South Africa | February 2016 - November 2016

Marketing, Advertising and Public Relations

Senior communications officer specialising in online communications, marketing and social media at UCT's Research Office (these include the website, annual research report and other special comms projects). As part of the global strategy and visibility portfolio, I also provided support in online communications, social media, marketing and crisis communications/reputation management for UCT's International Academic Programmes Office (IAPO) and their partners: the Confucius Institute and the MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program at UCT.

Freelance writer, sub-editor, translator and digital specialist | Freelance
Cape Town, South Africa | October 2015 - December 2016

Online Media, Internet and E-Commerce

Freelance writer, editor, digital and social media consultant for various South African online and print publications.

Web Editor | Communication & Marketing Department | University of Cape Town
Cape Town, South Africa | 2014 - 2015

Marketing, Advertising and Public Relations

Managing the content of UCT's official website. My responsibilities included: the writing, development, editing and coding of content; web content auditing and strategic planning; web analytics reporting; online crisis communications; and support for UCT's social media, digital platforms, and overall web presence.

Content Editor and Writer (Diet, Nutrition & Natural Health) | Health24 |
Cape Town, South Africa | 2010 - 2014

Online Media, Internet and E-Commerce

Managing the Diet, Nutrition and Natural Health hubs, as well as the diabetes, heart, cancer, hypertension, cholesterol and stroke condition centres. Conceptualising and writing new content, writing a variety of newsletters and health tips every month, assisting with commercial projects, proofreading and social media, and mentoring junior writers. Representing Health24 at both national and international conferences and media events. Winning a number of awards for online health reporting, most importantly the Novo Nordisk and Galliova awards. Deputising for editor for six months in 2013.

Journalist and sub-editor | Corporate Content | Die Burger
Cape Town, South Africa | 2006 - 2006

Publishing, Printing and Print Media

Writing and sub-editing of news and lifestyle stories for main newspaper as well as promotional copy for weekly supplements and special projects.

Freelance classical music critic | Die Burger | Freelance
Cape Town, South Africa | 2006 - 2008

Publishing, Printing and Print Media

Freelancing as classical music journalist and critic of orchestral, choral and chamber music concerts in the Western Cape.

Content Producer | News24 |
Cape Town, South Africa | 2006 - 2009

Online Media, Internet and E-Commerce

Managing and writing content for News24's entertainment and scitech sections. Reporting on a variety of topics ranging from entertainment to science, technology, travel and environmental news. Acting as news editor, as required over weekends and holidays. Playing a pivotal role in the New7Wonders of Nature campaign which led to Table Mountain being chosen as one of the world’s new seven natural wonders.

Writer, office administrator and frail care worker | London | Various Companies
London, United Kingdom | 2004 - 2006


Working and travelling in UK and Europe.

Part-time tour guide and visitor coordinator | The House of JC le Roux | DISTELL GROUP LTD
Stellenbosch, South Africa | 2001 - 2003

Travel, Tourism and Hospitality

Conducting cellar tours and tastings over weekends and holidays in three languages (Afrikaans, English and German). This includes private tours and wine tastings for VIP visitors.

Journalist and sub-editor | Corporate Content | Die Burger
Cape Town, South Africa | 2000 - 2001

Publishing, Printing and Print Media

Reporting on current affairs and lifestyle topics; editor of monthly healthy lifestyle supplement; copywriting for advertorials and proofreading of copy.

Classical singer | Freelance
Various, South Africa | 1995 - 2006

Arts, Culture and Entertainment

I am a classically trained soprano and received my training (in opera, oratorio and lieder) at the universities of Stellenbosch, Cape Town, South Africa (Unisa) and the Flanders International Opera Studio in Belgium. I enjoyed a rewarding singing career performing as soloist in countless productions, concerts and recitals, being awarded numerous scholarships and competing successfully in a number of classical music competitions.

Highlights include winning the Mabel Quick (1996) and ATKV Musiq (2002) singing competitions; being a finalist in the Unisa Overseas Music Scholarship (2002) and SAMRO Overseas Scholarship (2003) competitions; being selected as one of only five singers to join the Flanders Opera Studio (2003/2004); performing as soloist with the University of Stellenbosch Symphony, Cape Philharmonic and KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic orchestras; and meeting the late former president Nelson Mandela and his wife Graca Machel after performing as soloist at a special Groote Kerk church service, the Sunday before opening of parliament (in February 1999).

On my return to South Africa in 2006, I decided to follow a full-time career in journalism and continue my singing as a hobby.

Educational history


Stellenbosch High School, Stellenbosch, South Africa (1991)


University of Cape Town

Cape Town, South Africa | 2001 - 2004

Master of Music - Performance and Dissertation

Includes a study year abroad at the Flanders Opera Studio in Ghent, Belgium.

University of South Africa - UNISA

Stellenbosch, South Africa | 2001 - 2002

Performer's Licentiate in Music Cum Laude - Classical Singing

University of Cape Town

Cape Town, South Africa | 1998 - 2001

BMus (Hons) Cum Laude - Classical Music

University of Stellenbosch

Stellenbosch, South Africa | 1996 - 1997

Honours degree - Journalism

University of Stellenbosch

Stellenbosch, South Africa | 1992 - 1995

BA degree - Music and Languages



Galliova Online Health Writer’s Merit Award | 2013

Providing internet readers with contemporary, reliable, scientifically-based health information.

Novo Nordisk Online Media Prize | 2012

Galliova Health Writer’s Award (Runner-up) | 2012

Galliova Health Writer’s Award (Runner-up) | 2011



Athletics Clipboad

Webmaster/editor, sub-editor and digital consultant, June 2015 - August 2016

Athletics Clipboard ( is a website that celebrates (and records the history of) the many non-white star athletes who received little recognition and support during the days of apartheid and sports isolation in South Africa. I conceptualised and built the website, acted as webmaster and consultant on best online practice, and assisted with copy editing.

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