South Africa, China partners on Space Technologies

This event demonstrates South Africa and China’s shared commitment to invest in and leverage science, technology and innovation as instruments for growth and development. It is further proof of the strong bilateral cooperation in this domain and should serve as a platform for enhanced cooperation.

Science, technology, and innovation is an integral part of South Africa’s National Development Plan, both as a means to bolster economic growth and competitiveness and advance social development. Fostering a vibrant knowledge economy and a culture of entrepreneurship is at the heart of the Government’s agenda.

Efforts are focused on developing and supporting a dynamic national system of innovation by strengthening relations between public research and technology organizations, universities, industry and civil society. These efforts include developing South Africa’s human capital, addressing demographic imbalances, increasing research output, and using knowledge for economic and social development.

Democratic South Africa has much to be proud of in the domain of science and technology. By funding more than 200 research chairs and 15 centers of excellence at South African universities, this has significantly increased South Africa’s research output.

The big policy challenge remains to ensure an effective translation of research outputs into new products and services. Investment in science and technology to beneficiate South Africa’s raw materials has, for example, led to the development of an ambitious hydrogen fuel cell technology programme.

Scientific advice to improve natural resource management and decision-making is benefitting from the South African National Space Agency’s Earth observation programmes. South Africa is at the cutting edge of drug and vaccine development for infectious diseases such as HIV, malaria and tuberculosis.

While discussion of the Fourth Industrial Revolution has been focused on manufacturing and the implications for global supply chains, it is important to have a holistic perspective of the impact of these disruptive new technologies on all aspects of human endeavour and well-being.

South Africa is determined to respond effectively to the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The danger is that an inappropriate response would reinforce South Africa’s dependence on primary resources and on imported technology.

South Africa already has some of the components necessary to play a role, especially in its universities and innovative companies.

Disruptive technologies will open up new industries and will change existing industries, processes and services. Focused investment in well-funded programmes is essential for success – hard choices must be made in where and how to invest.

The development of skills and expertise underpins all preparation for and participation in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. International cooperation will be crucial.

It is an imperative for all nations seeking to progress in science, technology and innovation. The frontiers of human knowledge are expanded through joint investments, the pooling of resources, and the sharing of experience and expertise.

Major societal challenges such climate change, disease and food security will only be effectively met through strong international cooperation in science and technology.

South Africa’s hosting of the global Square Kilometre Array radio telescope is an excellent example of successful international cooperation in science.

A project of the scale of the SKA, which will be the flagship frontier science project of the 21st century, cannot be undertaken by any nation alone.

In addition to providing a better understanding of our universe, the SKA will drive innovation in crucial technology areas such as high-performance computing and high-speed data transmission networks. We wish to acknowledge China’s crucial contributions to the SKA project as a valued partner.

This evidenced in many ways, including the two Action Plans to establish joint research centers, in crucial economic sectors such as mining and forestry, and to promote the exchange of young scientists between the two countries.

There is great potential to further develop cooperation between the two countries, for example, in fostering partnerships related to the establishment of science parks, which in turn can facilitate the investment by China’s leading technology intensive enterprises in South Africa.