Pretoria - Academics, scientists and education stakeholders from across Africa are hedging their hopes for a better tomorrow for the continent on the success of collaborative efforts such as the Science Diplomacy Capital for Africa initiative (SDCfA).
The initiative, a brainchild of the Department of Science and Innovation, was launched at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) on Friday, bringing together diplomats, academics, scientists young and old, the business community, as well as civil society members, in order to promote scientific collaboration across the continent and beyond.
At the same time it spoke of using, leveraging and connecting technology innovation with humanity.
Deputy Director-General for International Co-operation and Resources at the Department of Science and Innovation, Daan Du Toit, speaking on behalf of Minister Blade Nzimande, said the minister believed that such a project could make three key contributions to help the continent better harness science as an instrument at the service of society, and to advance the achievement of the global public good, through the Sustainable Development Goals.
First, Nzimande said that he believed that the project would ensure that the very best of South African and African scientific input and advice was harnessed to enrich diplomacy’s response to the key societal challenges faced, whether it be a pandemic disease, energy security, or climate change.
However, most importantly he said tha he hoped it would address the triple threat of poverty, unemployment and inequality.
Nzimande said he was also hoping that the initiative would promote and assist the formation of enhanced science diplomacy partnerships in order to provide a platform to leverage the expertise and resources of international partners to conceptualise and initiate new co-operation programmes to deliver real impact.
“I would like to set the Science Diplomacy Capital partners an important challenge, and that is to work to ensure that international co-operation partnerships are truly inclusive, with the active participation of historically disadvantaged institutions and individuals.
“I am convinced the initiative will unleash the tremendous soft power of science, which knows no borders, unites and is not divisive, but rather seeks to reinforce global solidarity and a commitment to multilateralism.
“Co-operation in science depends on people, relations between countries depend on people, and our mission should therefore be to bring people together.”
Jansie Niehaus, the executive director of the National Science and Technology Forum, said that she was of the opiniom that it was a fantastic initiative.
However, she shared similar sentiments as other speakers that the way to address many of the problems of the world today was through effective collaborations.
Niehaus said civil society had for years interacted with private individuals and partners all the time in various countries, and there existed huge potential which was uncontained.
“I would like for us to focus on education as I think education is in a crisis not just in South Africa, but across the world it’s becoming an issue on how we can get young people to take science seriously and appreciate evidence-based information instead of social media.”