The second Science Forum South Africa opened this morning at the CSIR International Convention Centre in Pretoria to a packed audience. More than 1 600 people are attending the platform which has become a premier forum for scientific debate.
Delegates have come from across the world to participate in the open forum, which this year takes place under the theme “Igniting conversations about science”.
Minister of Science and Technology Naledi Pandor opened this morning’s proceedings, saying the forum, “seeks to build on our objective of providing a vibrant support base for the expansion of research and innovation on the African continent in partnership with the global science community.”
Minister Pandor said that the continent’s research community faced many challenges.
“African research lags behind in most science disciplines. We have too few scientists, inadequate publication and innovation achievements, and poorly resourced science institutions.”
But she said the situation was steadily improving.
“More and more African researchers are broadening their horizons and engaging in much-needed projects in food security, energy, transport and health (malaria and HIV). This has seen the number of papers from African researchers double in just over a decade, improving in quantity, quality, and international citation according to data from Scopus, the largest database of peer-reviewed literature.There is more and more funding for African research,” said the Minister.
Minister Pandor told the audience that South Africa had tried to put the best science and technology policies in place. “We have a separate department to prioritise research, she said. “We have made scienceand technology a national priority.”
The country’s science policies focus on promoting specific areas for research and development � including astronomy, energy and the bioeconomy � in which we are becoming world leaders. “We invest in vibrant, knowledge-based activities that are driven by the quality of the scientists we train, the quality of our research and development infrastructure, and the enablers we have put in place to turn scientific research into technology,” said Minister Pandor.
Minister Pandor said the country’s greatest challenge was the provision of exciting opportunities to our young people.
“It’s clear that high-tech innovations will help employment grow over the long term, as new technology spreads from one sector to adjacent sectors, and so throughout the economy. But it’s also clear that the emerging high-technology sectors by themselves don’t employ more people at the moment (innovation works through the “creative destruction” of jobs), but it’s what could happen in the future that we should focus upon.”
Minister Pandor paid tribute to the late Cuban leader Fidel Castro. “In South Africa we are indebted to him and the Cuban people. But it’s also worth recalling his science and technology legacy, a legacy that is not as well known as it should be.”
The Minister said that Cuba had nearly 90 000 physicians and the best doctor-patient ratio in the world.
“Cuba’s “Medical Internationalism” programme exported medical aid to 158 countries and continues to provide more medical personnel to the developing world than all of the G7 countries combined. Venezuela benefits the most, followed by African countries. For a country of 11 million � that is remarkable.”
“South Africa is not only indebted to Cuba, but we also have much to learn from Cuba,” said Minister Pandor.
Source: Department of Science and Technology