SADC Protocol on Science, Technology and Innovation: briefing by Department of Science and Technology; Committee Programme

Science and Technology

15 February 2011
Chairperson: Mr N Ngcobo (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Science and Technology gave a briefing on the SADC Protocol on Science, Technology, and Innovation. The history of the SADC Protocol was explained and the developing process it had gone through up till today. The Protocol’s key objectives included furthering regional cooperation and coordination in Science, Technology and Innovation as well as maximising public and private investment in regional R&D. Regional STI interventions were noted such as SADC Women-in-Science and the SADC Climate Change centres. The financial implications on the budget of the Department of Science and Technology were discussed.

The discussion raised issues such as legal fine print and its ramification for the SADC Treaty and Protocol, and the effectiveness of the SADC Science, Technology and Innovation Desk and what was being done to remedy that. Attention was also paid to the upcoming International
Astronautical Congress and Climate Change Summit being hosted by South Africa. The Department was asked how prepared it was for this and what benefits would it bring the country, region and continent. The Committee recommended that the National Assembly ratify the Protocol.

Meeting report

Southern African Development Community Protocol on Science, Technology, and Innovation (SADC)
Dr Thomas Auf der Heyde Deputy Director General: International Cooperation and Resources, Department of Science and Technology presented the Department of Science and Technology’s key objectives, issues and interventions and its national as well as regional implications, in doing so he covered the following items: ▪ Previous issues raised by Members
▪ History of SADC Protocol on STI
▪ Key Objectives of the Protocol
▪ Regional STI interventions
▪ Financial Implications
▪ Challenges to STI
[see document for details].


The Chairperson opened the discussion by asking why the member signatories were reluctant to support the SADC Science, Technology and Innovation Desk.

Dr Auf der Heyde responded that he had no concrete answer, however he speculated that there was a lack of trust and confidence in the SADC Secretariat as a structure and in its governance. He reiterates that this was his own assumption. He did however press the point that although the Desk was weak, the Department was working to strengthen the Desk and its overall role in the Secretariat alongside the partners in the region. He said that this year the Desk had even been given a budget within the Secretariat for regional science and technology intervention. So there were signs of improvement and it would be a positive influence for regional interventions they were undertaking.

Ms M Shinn (DA) wondered about a reference in the Protocol regarding Article 22 of the SADC Treaty itself, was this in a separate document or was it missing. She would also like to know if the official who had been seconded in 2008, was it still the same person or had been replaced. She also wondered if there would be a completion of the signatories to the document in the upcoming conference in Namibia as four countries (Madagascar, Botswana, Malawi and Mauritius) had not signed it in 2008. She went on to credit the Department for including the finance details.

Mr Tsitso Rasenyalo, Department Legal Affairs Officer, claimed that the Protocol and the articles therein did not contravene domestic law and suggested Ms Shinn made sure the date on her copy was the correct date.

Ms Shinn [replied inaudible]

Tsitso Rasenyalo claimed it was a reference from the SADC Treaty laid down during the establishment of SADC.

The Chairperson interrupted and asked Ms Shinn to conduct herself through the chair and use the microphone. He said he would allow her a follow-up question.

Ms Shinn still wanted clarity why sections had been included in the Protocol as there were no provisions for standard clauses; it was not explained properly to her.

Mr Rasenyalo strongly insisted that the document she had was the Declaration, it did not deal with the Protocol and assured her that the Protocol was in order.

The Chairperson interrupted the discussion and suggested that Ms Shinn and the Legal Affairs Officer schedule a small summit and go through the details there. 

Dr Auf der Heyde answered that with reference to the SADC official, it was still the same official, though his secondment did come to an end this year. 

Ms M Dunjwa (ANC) wanted to know if there was a reason that they did not sign the treaty at the time, and was there a commitment from them that they would be part of the next meeting. She wondered who were those development partners reluctant to support the Desk, and was there a role for members of parliament from the SADC member countries in ensuring the strengthening of the SADC Desk. Finally she was concerned that there was little or no mention of youth in Science in SADC.

Ms Anneline Morgan, DST Director of African Cooperation, answered that the Protocol encouraged the popularisation of science and technology amongst youths. To that end there was the launch of a programme in 2009 in Mauritius which encouraged SADC member states to have national science weeks and even how to establish science centres. South Africa had assisted, with the Australian government, Lesotho in building a science centre and sending people to Australia to train them in running it. Uganda and Mozambique hosted national science weeks. More countries were picking up this South African model of national science weeks.

Dr Auf der Heyde answered that he was not at the SADC summit, but surmised that the reason they had not signed was that the heads of state had not attended the summit. He did not know if the Secretariat would seek the signatures afterwards, though he thought it reasonable to assume so. He thanked the Committee for raising the subject as he would seek out an answer from the Secretariat. The developmental partners referred to were the Nordic Countries; Germany, France, UK, Canada, Sweden and Australia among others as well as their international development agencies like SIDA in Sweden and NORAD in Norway who provided resources for SADC activities. He suggested that members of parliament could engage with these groups, ambassadors as well as internal parliamentary meetings to encourage support for SADC and its programmes. Another avenue of aid could be through supporting the SADC Secretariat as it was supposed to be a collective agency of all member states. The Committee could provide support for it by informing and advising the South African parties that were represented in SADC. They could do a lot more in SADC if they had the resources, not just funding, but human resources in both SADC and the Department.

The Chairperson asked the Department to explain what the role of members of parliament would be as an oversight structure. He referred to Article Two of the SADC Protocol and wanted clarification on who oversees the STI, and what the role of the SADC Council was. He wanted to know what SADC’s relationship and links were to the African Union Desk established in 2005/06 in Senegal to coordinate the activities of science and technology across the entire continent.

On the role of parliament, Dr Auf der Heyde answered that it was not really his place to provide a response on this, though he believed that the Protocol stipulated very clearly who had what responsibility. Whether or not it was appropriate, he could not answer.

Ms Morgan said that the AU Science and Technology structure was a continental structure that included all the science and technology ministers of member states, while SADC only included the 15 regional members. The regional representation was done at a Bureau which was currently headed by South Africa and Namibia and represented SADC in the AU regional science and technology structure, AMCOST (African Ministerial Council on Science and Technology), which in turn was chaired by North Africa, lead by Egypt; it was a two-year rotational chairmanship.

The Chairperson thanked them for the explanation of these structures.

Ms Dunjwa wanted to know if there was a process of monitoring if the SADC projects were producing results that South Africa could be proud of, and if there was such monitoring at what level was it done. She then expressed concern about the ideology behind the science that emerged from developing countries, especially considering the historical background of Africa.

The Deputy Director General answered that when it came to monitoring, this was one of the frustrations the Department faced as it was not satisfied with the performance of the SADC Desk. It should be monitoring the interventions and reporting on its impacts, and that did not work as it should. It had to be more of a quid-pro-quo that should have been better negotiated to begin with. That did not mean that there was no monitoring on the level of the projects.

The Chairperson asked how much the Department had prepared for the two world summits that were coming to South Africa, the International
Astronautical Congress (IAC) and the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 17).

The Deputy Director General replied that for the two big events, especially climate change, the focus was regional, not continental, due to the effects felt with regional neighbours instead of continental. He specified that the Department of Environmental Affairs was the lead department when it came to climate change not DST. The Department was however developing a plan around South African interventions in regard to climate change. The Austronautical Congress was seen as very important for promoting national and regional interests, but was primarily seen as a platform to promote the nation’s bid for the Square Kilometre Array Telescope (SKA). With regards to regional and continental interests he stressed one had to be strategic as not many countries had the capacity for a space research programme. However the Department was working with partners that had capacity to develop the African Resource Management Constellation, a joint venture with Nigeria, Algeria, Kenya to build a geo-stationary satellite over Africa, and clearly they would use the Congress to promote these projects.

The Chairperson said that as these world events coming to South Africa only came around once in a blue moon, it was the obligation of the nation to promote the interests of the continent. The Department was urged to mobilize its resources and do more, and finally he asked was the Department ready.

The Deputy Director General answered that he could not answer all of the issues raised as he came prepared to discuss the Protocol. He would try and answer some and pass some questions down to his deputy. An inter-ministerial committee had been established that met at the level of senior officials. Within this committee, they were working out the role of science and technology within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the COP 17. With regards to the Astronautical Congress he could not comment, he did not even know if there was a lead department with regards to the Congress.

The Chairperson clarified and said it was the Department of Trade and Industry.

The Deputy Director General said he had not seen anything from that Department. His only connection to the Congress was through the SKA bid, as it was a potential opportunity for international lobbying. He regretted that he was not in a position to comment on the rest.

Ms Morgan commented that there was a lack of a common position for Africa when it came to climate change in international forums, so they had taken the initiative to form a position within the SADC region and to come up with a regional position. This process was started in Namibia last year, and they would be meeting in Botswana in three months’ time, to go over gathered data. They were also planning a pre-meeting before the COP 17 meeting so there was a dialogue started in the region. There were also linkages between the different regional and continental bodies for the same purpose.

The Deputy Director General added a qualifying comment, the Department’s focus was on science and technology in the overall climate change negotiation specifically within technology transfer, intellectual property and capacity development around that. This was the Department’s role within this process and it was important he felt to stress the limits of what the Department was involved in.

The Chairperson disagreed with the Deputy Director General and said that the Protocols must serve the purpose they were created for, and the relevant expectations they were created for. South Africa had to lead the way if SADC could not. The nation had to represent the continent, not just the G5 at these conferences. South Africa was the gateway into Africa.

The Chairperson thanked the Department and released the Deputy Director General and his delegation.

The Protocol met no objections and the Committee recommended that the National Assembly ratify it.

Committee Business
The Chairperson announced  that due to the debate on the State of the Nation Address the Committee would not be able to attend study groups and the like this week. This meant that an item would have to be dropped from the programme and it would be reconsidered at the next meeting.  Another important announcement was that from Sunday till Wednesday the Committee was expected to attend a joint sitting with Trade and Industry Portfolio Committee and on Sunday they would be welcoming a delegation from the European Union with a reception on the same day, a notice should have been circulated but would be, he said. Therefore next week they would not be able to attend to matters of the Committee and these would have to wait until the week after the next.

Ms Shinn strongly objected to being told about the joint sitting and meetings of next week only now and claimed she could not attend due to previous engagements. Further she vehemently objected to the Committee now not being able to set a program before the first week of March. This was unacceptable. She said the Committee could not spend its time on periphery issues. What was more, they were starting the meetings very late.

The Chairperson asked what she meant by their starting their meetings very late because he had arrived at 9:30 and she arrived late.

Ms Shinn replied that Parliament had been in business since January and this was the Committee’s first meeting.

The Chairperson said that unfortunately he had not been available due to a busy schedule of chairperson workshops and whip workshops but added with irritation that she could have notified the Committee of her wish to start and acted as chair herself and lead the meetings.

Ms Shinn said that the workshops and commitments did not seem to affect the chairpersons of the other committees.

The Chairperson replied that there had never been a week when they had not been doing anything; they had been busy with chair workshops and caucus workshops all in accordance with the Rules of Parliament. And after that, he continued, it was the State of the Nation Address.

Ms Dunjwa was concerned about the important matters that would affect their programme such as oversight work, and hoped that the Chairperson, the Secretary and herself as the Whip could get together and look into this and circulate a programme amongst the members so they would not lose time and become unable to attend some of the matters they would like to do. This was important so they did not find themselves suddenly left behind. She added that she would not be able to attend the events announced by the Chairperson as she had prior engagements.

The Chair replied that they had not been sitting idly by, but that they had worked hard around the schedule and tried to make room for the Committee but there had been other parliamentary commitments to attend to. He himself had not been able to attend a meeting in his district due to his busy itinerary.

The Secretary clarified that the joint sitting with the Trade and Industry Portfolio Committee was on Wednesday and the meeting with the EU delegation was an invitation to the Chairperson and another member if any was available.

Ms L Jacobus (ANC) suggested that the Committee have a business meeting at the end of the term, to brainstorm and then compile a committee program so that when they start the new term, they can dive straight into business and avoid similar situations to the one the Committee was in now.

The Chairperson argued that this had been done before, but recently there had been very few meetings where there were enough members for a quorum so no such initiatives could be taken.

Ms Dunjwa said that she had neglected to report on a meeting she had been asked to attend on the 25 November last year, where she had represented the Committee.

The Chairperson said he was certain she would present a report during one of the sittings of their Committee.

The Chairperson concluded the meeting.


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