Investing in youth in science key to transforming SA

Pretoria � South Africa must create opportunities for young people to be creative and innovative in response to the socio-economic challenges the country faces, says Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor.

Speaking at the Youth in Science, Technology and Innovation Indaba currently underway at the CSIR in Pretoria, Minister Pandor said the future of the country and the African continent depends on increased support for and development of talented scientists and entrepreneurs, who can take up the opportunity to create new technologies and innovative solutions for pressing problems.

With the unprecedented growth in many tech sectors, in particular mobile and information and communication technology, there has never been a better time in history for young South Africans to develop solutions that can address a range of challenges.

One of the things we must do is to get many more young people to study and pass Mathematics and Science, Minister Pandor said.

The Minister said, however, that South Africa is already on the correct path, as the country has a number of achievements in science and innovation of which it can be proud.

We have made a disproportionate contribution to technological innovation worldwide, considering our relatively small economy.

We boast a long list of impressive inventions from early tools for collecting, cutting up and storing food, to traditional medicines, horse-drawn vehicles, medical apparatus, attack helicopters, vuvuzela horns and articulated dump trucks, the Minister said.

Minister Pandor said South Africa has some of the best conditions for solar energy in the world and sufficient wind-energy potential to respond to energy needs.

Minister Pandor told the young people attending the Indaba that the Department of Science and Technology offers programmes that create awareness of the value of science and technology, and the critical role science and technology play in ensuring national prosperity and sustainable development.

The DST has created 34 new science centres in the past decade. This growth in science centres is partly driven by community engagement initiatives by the higher education sector and corporate social responsibility programmes, Minister Pandor said.

Opportunities for young people in technology

The Minister highlighted to the youth at the Indaba that the technology sector has a technology top 100 company internship programme.

Internships are really important for young people. Youth employment is critical in building a stable society and in promoting and sustaining national economic growth. Internships are part of our country's efforts to expand the science and engineering workforce for those with scarce skills, the Minister said.

Thulani Tshefuta, the President of the South African Youth Council, said young people must be supported in whatever innovations in which they are involved. Science and technology should be fully exploited.

Shane Ndengeza, 18, from Soweto, told SAnews that he has been interested in science and technology since he was young.

I find science and technology very fascinating and hope one day I will be one of South Africa's top scientists, he said.

Ndengeza said he hopes the Indaba will guide him on where to study further. His dream is to become a pilot one day.

The two-day Indaba is attended by over 300 youths from around the country. It targets young entrepreneurs, grassroots innovators, captains of industry and youth in higher education.

Held under the theme 'Creating opportunities for youth through science, technology and innovation - Nothing about the youth, for the youth without the youth', the Indaba will provide a platform for young people to share ideas and to also seek funding from government and the private sector.

The aim of the conference is to develop an implementable plan of action to improve youth participation and advancement in science, technology and innovation based economy.

Source: South African Government News Agency