Modern science already has a long history in Africa. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in South Africa celebrated its 70th year of research, development and innovation at its 5th biennial conference. The conference, with the theme of “70 years of ideas that work”, took place at the CSIR International Convention Centre in Pretoria 8-9 October. SANBio/BioFISA II took part in the exhibition showcasing its own efforts in driving forward biosciences in Southern Africa.The conference featured a number of local and international experts in the fields of health, the natural environment, energy, information and communications technology, industry, the built environment, and defence and security, presenting expected future technological developments and global research issues.
Giving his speech, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa stated that science is at the centre of all human progress and is critical to development for both South African nations and Africa as a continent and that the South African government will continue to support science and technology innovations: “Science and Technology has the potential to change people’s lives. As a country, we commend the positive contribution made by the CSIR,” he said.
“We know that progress towards a knowledge-based economy will be driven by a variety of elements. These include human capital development, knowledge generation and exploitation, and knowledge infrastructure development. It requires that we address the gap between research results and socioeconomic outcomes,” he continued.
The Deputy President also praised the researchers who do not pursue knowledge merely for its own sake: “These are people who are developing drugs to block malaria transmission because they have a vision of a world without malaria, they pursue knowledge so that they may improve the human condition.”
Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor echo
ed his thoughts, saying that science and technology should be put to good use. “I look forward to suggestions in sustaining development goals,” she continued. Furthermore, Minister Pandor encouraged partnerships with research institutions and emphasized the importance of effective utilization of indigenous knowledge. “I encourage others to partner with our public research institutes and communities and academia and create a new innovation system that will link indigenous knowledge systems with modern science for the benefits of all South Africans,” she said. And indeed, an example of the utilization of indigenous knowledge and resources was showcased.
It was announced that after three years of extensive research on various indigenous South African edible plants, collaboration between Nestle, South Africa, the CSIR and the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) has resulted in the development of an innovative commercial product, the new Maggi 2 Minute Noodles with real Morogo (African spinach).
Chairperson of the CSIR Board, Professor Thokozani Majozi also remarked that creating new businesses based on scientific developments holds marked potential for reducing poverty. He also called on the youth to fall in love with science.
NEPAD SANBio agrees with these insights. Humanity
in its modern state owes much – almost everything – to scientific advances throughout history. Innovations and scientific collaboration are undeniably of key importance to economic development, and research should result in actual positive impact. Finally, indigenous knowledge is an enormously valuable resource worth preserving, forming a good knowledge foundation ripe for exploitation through scientific validation and consequent steps towards effective utilization.
SANBio contributes towards all of these: in the collaborative research SANBio supports and funds, emphasis is on improving people’s livelihoods through innovations and capacity building, and one of the SANBio nodes is a centre of excellence in indigenous knowledge systems. Success and impact stories of projects funded under SANBio in the past years can already be found on the SANBio website, and during the next few years numerous other research projects with a focus on the later stages of the biosciences value chain will be funded. In terms of involving youth in the sciences, SANBio has now launched a student ambassador initiative to promote biosciences among the youth and regionally. For more information on the youth ambassador initiative, visit this link.