Drive to connect Africa's scientists
Minister of Science and Technology Naledi Pandor said the presence of radio telescopes to keep countries in touch was a global trend, evident in Europe and America.
“The world scientists want the entire world to be able to act together to research the universe and we are going to be part of that discovery,” Pandor said.
She was speaking to Independent Newspapers on the sidelines of a four-day Square Kilometre Array (SKA) ministerial meeting in Accra. The meeting coincides with the launch of Ghana satellite dish at Kuntunse today.
The project had seen a conversion of the redundant telecommunication dish into a radio telescope antenna. It was hailed as the historic project for being the second on the continent outside South Africa.
Pandor said the meeting enabled partner countries in the SKA project to keep each other informed about science developments in their respective countries.
The nine partner countries form part of the African VLBI Network project, which is a network of countries gravitated towards radio astronomy.
“While we are focusing on nine countries our intention is that ultimately the entire continent will be involved,”she said.
The countries have been tasked with earmarking locations for building new dishes or converting old ones into radio telescopes antennae.
Pandor said the SKA project would cultivate platforms for science skills such as engineering, astronomy and mathematics.
She said projects such as the SKA has put Africa on the map.
“Now when people begin to speak about South Africa and the SKA they are talking about science. They are talking about engineering competence.
“They are talking about high-level skills and the research in Africa. It is no longer the Afro-pessimism conversation about starvation and low growth,” she said.
Pandor applauded the project for attracting international resources as well as increasing opportunities for African researchers to have resources they needed for their work.
She lamented the fact that there were few research projects undertaken through collaborative efforts by Africans.
“I think we must do science together as Africans,” she said.
With regard to helping other partner countries, she said: “We (as South Africa) made a commitment that we will assist all eight partner countries to achieve the level of readiness which will help them to participate in the second phase of SKA.”
She said Zambia seemed to be ready and discussions with Mozambique were still at an early stage.
“Kenya indicated that they are ready to go,” she said.
Ministers will also sign a memorandum of understanding at the conference, formalising the agreement on the initiative.
They will also adopt a robust communications strategy to ensure people were kept abreast of the technology.
Rapula Moatshe is in Ghana on invitation by the Department of Science and Technology, South Africa