Science and Technology Developments in NEPAD: briefing

Arts and Culture

26 August 2003
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report

26 August, 2003

Chairperson: Ms M Njobe (ANC)


Science and Technology in NEPAD
DST International Co-operation and Resources (not presented)

The Committee was updated on developments regarding the role SA science and technology was playing in NEPAD, SADC and Africa. The Committee was concerned about the Department not moving away from high profile planning stages to visible and pronounced achievements within South Africa that could also be appreciated by ordinary people.

Mr D Naidoo (Group Executive: International Co-operation and Resources from the Department of Science and Technology), led the presentation about science and technology in Nepad. The challenge of rising to the African challenge was immense but not insurmountable. South Africa was taking its place in the international arena and could contribute useful material to SADC and Africa with the support of multilateral and bilateral relationships. Nepad's first Science and Technology Ministerial would be held in Johannesburg in November 2003, preceded by a senior officials segment. Experience had clearly taught them the importance of good policy and legislative frameworks around science and technology innovation. Science and technology as a platform of entry with a largely non-political banner, was moving out of the laboratory and into the real world.

The Chairperson noted that the Department's role in Nepad had developed quite far without the Committee being updated. It was disturbing to first read about the department's activities in the media.

Mr Cassiem (PJC) was concerned that the presentation was still at the same level of visualisation as it had been nine years ago. Ordinary South Africans were not part of the many big conferences where interaction took place. He wanted to know what precluded the ministry from setting up a viable network for the African continent. The USA was "power-stressed" and Africa was "sun-drenched", hence practical trade-offs instead of pledges ought to be explored.

Mr Naidoo acknowledged the sentiments of the Committee but said the department had to stimulate developments, plans and policy. Participation in international science and technology platforms had been good not only for South Africa but for also for other developing countries. SA had a key role In North-South relations and had been instrumental in the Commonwealth Science Foundation regeneration.

Mr S Dithebe (ANC) commended the initiative to promote Johannesburg inner-city regeneration. He asked whether they were doing anything special in collaboration with the City of Johannesburg to ensure public interest and support of science and technology.

Ms B Tema (DST Chief Director: International Relations) said the Department would explore the idea further and beyond the Nepad Ministerial.

Prof Mohamed (ANC) was concerned that researchers of excellence sometimes had to go abroad to do their PhDs due to lack of funding. Planning was good but they expected to see niche products on the market. He was concerned that nobody told them of the incubator's successes.

Mr Manzini (DST Director: Africa) said linking scientific research to products took a long time to take effect, but the end result had a clear relationship with socio-economic development. A process had been set up within SADC to collaborate indigenous knowledge systems on for instance, commercialising products such as the Marula fruit to address food security. The department described various programmes to sensitise SADC youth about how science and technology could be used in solving community problems.

Mr Naidoo said a number of science and technology successes placed them among well-respected countries in this field, for example in observation and astronomy. South Africa had come up with the remedy to contain foot and mouth disease without having to kill mass herds. Some successes were admittedly not well publicised to the public at large. Some products were of commercial benefit and used predominantly internationally

The Chairperson said that they needed to take an aggressive approach and asked whether other African States all had Science and Technology departments. South Africa seemed to be in the lead within the African Union and Nepad Programmes and she wondered how much this would burden the country.

Mr Naidoo said African countries portrayed diverse readiness. At SADC level, the programme had a special slot at chief directorate level despite the programme not having been optimised at multilateral level. Most countries were aware that disaster management and food security were critical issues of vulnerability. These issues linked cross border co-operation in developing early warning systems, telemedicine and tele-education.

Mr N Arendse (DST) added that the private sector had recently become part of their portfolio in science and technology research and development.

Mr Ngcobo (ANC) said the department needed to balance high technology with profitable delivery at grass roots level. Biological resources and waste management had the potential to transform into job creating commercial industries.

The Chairperson felt that the co-ordinating of programmes should start at crèche level. They needed to see more aggressive approaches to recruiting previously disadvantaged researchers and wanted to reach the point where the majority of researchers of excellence were South African.

The meeting was adjourned.



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