The SKA site near Carnavon Picture: Jeffrey Abrahams
The construction of the groundbreaking Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project has created a total of 7 284 direct and indirect jobs. 

The majority of those who have benefited in the form of jobs, bursaries and technical training come from the small neighbouring communities of Carnarvon, Williston, Van Wyksvlei, Brandvlei, Vosburg, Loxton and Calvinia.

The socio-economic developments resulting from the SKA will be in the spotlight as Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor and the media undertake a visit to Carnarvon in the Northern Cape this week.

Carnarvon is where the SKA - the world’s largest radio telescope - is being built.

The Department of Science and Technology (DST) is currently building the MeerKAT telescope, the South African precursor to the larger international SKA.

The SKA will be built in two phases: SKA1 and SKA2 - starting next year. SKA1 will include two components - SKA1 MID (to be built in South Africa) and SKA1 LOW (to be built in Australia).

SKA will be able to detect radio waves from objects millions or even billions of light years away.

To date, R134 million has been spent on local suppliers for the construction of the projects, DST director for astronomy, Takalani Nemaungani, said.

“Construction material for the HERA telescope is sourced and fabricated within South Africa - from Carnarvon predominantly,” Nemaungani said.

“Local industry and institutions with the appropriate technical expertise and interest were invited to participate in the SKA pre-construction design phase, and an amount of R55m was awarded to 14 SMMEs via the SKA SA financial assistance programmes to develop skills and expertise in advanced technologies,” he added.

R1m was spent on training and development of people participating in these programmes and resulted in a number of students permanently employed at the SKA, with others employed as IT technicians, optic-fibre assistants technician and more.

SKA SA has established a technical training centre located at the SKA SA Karoo support base in Klerefontein, 17km outside Carnarvon. 

The training centre started operating in May and will create a pool of artisans and semi-skilled workers.