Science Forum South Africa 2016: A platform to discuss challenges faced by the African continent

Prof Lugbenga Akinbajo Ben Ogunmoyela at SANBio exhibition booth at the Science Forum South Africa 2016

The NEPAD-Southern Africa Network for Biosciences exhibited and hosted a side event at the second Science Forum South Africa on 8- 9 December 2016 at the CSIR International Convention Centre. This year SFSA was held under the theme "Igniting conversations about science”. The event brought together more 1 600 participants. The forum is a platform for scientists, policy-makers, students, academics and the public to engage on pertinent issues around science, technology and innovation.

In her opening remarks Minister of Science and Technology of South Africa, Ms Naledi Pandor emphasised that this year’s forum "seeks to build on the objective of providing a vibrant support base for the expansion of research and innovation on the African continent in partnership with the global science community".

Minister Pandor further elaborated that the continent's research community faces many challenges: "African research lags behind in most science disciplines. We have too few scientists, inadequate publication and innovation achievements, and poorly resourced science institutions.”

"More and more African researchers are broadening their horizons and engaging in much-needed projects in food security, energy, transport and health (e.g. malaria and HIV). This has seen the number of papers from African researchers double in just over a decade, improving in quantity, quality, and international citations according to data from Scopus, the largest database of peer-reviewed literature. There is more and more funding for African research," said the Minister, remarking on positive developments.

Topics of the event included climate change-induced migration, public perceptions of genetically modified organisms, food security, and how social sciences can shape Africa’s future.

SANBio Side Event at second Science Forum South Africa 2016

The Southern Africa Network for Biosciences had an opportunity to host a side event at the second SFSA. The theme of the side event was “Innovation to Transform Nutritional and Health Status of Africa”.

Dr Phiyani Lebeya (South Africa), CSIR point-of-care diagnostic research group leader, presented on their technology for Detection of Food-And-Mouth Disease in Africa. “The Foot and Mouth Disease Detection Technology we have developed is very efficient; the technology is installed in a mobile laboratory and the test or detection can be done anywhere and the results are as accurate as regular lab results. The authorities and farmers can log onto the system to access the results and it shows where there is positive result for an outbreak.”

Professor Olugbenga Akinbajo Ben Ogunmoyela (Nigeria) gave a presentation on the theme of Research Paradigm on Food and Nutrition on the Continent: “There no need to reinvent the wheel – all of us must see ourselves as game changers. Strengthening collaboration between industries and universities is very important, although there is a huge gap in most African countries.” He also noted remarked on the nature of the transformation we would like to see: “Africans need to think very deeply while talking about transformation. Transformation cannot happen if we are still not ready to solve our own problems. We are talking of a new way of doing things; the livelihoods of the communities have to actually be impacted by what we try to achieve.”

The Science Forum concluded on the 9th of December with a closing plenary session and an award ceremony. NEPAD-SANBio received an award for the exhibition.  Read moreImage gallery