Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane: Science Forum South Africa 2018

14 Dec 2018

Remarks by the Minister of Science and Technology, HE Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, at the SFSA 2018 closing session

Programme Director
Prof Sarah Anyang Agbor, African Union Commissioner for Human Research, Science and Technology
Her Royal Highness Sikhanyiso, Minister of Information Communication and Technology, Kingdom of Eswatini
Minister Elsadig Elhadi Abdel Rahman Elmhadi, Minister of Scientific Research and Higher Education, Republic of Sudan
Prof Felix Dapara Dakora, President of the African Academy of Sciences, who partnered with us in the organisation of the 2018 Forum
Prof Cheryl de la Rey, Vice Chancellor of the University of Pretoria
Members of the Diplomatic Corps
Leaders of the South African National System of Innovation
Science Forum South Africa 2018 participants
Distinguished guests
Ladies and gentlemen

I would like to extend a special thanks for sacrificing other important obligations to join us for the 2018 South Africa’s Science Forum.

Ladies and Gentlemen, this year’s participation of the Science Forum South Africa 2018 has set all sorts of records.  We had 4000 registered participants from 88 countries.  The forum created a platform to engage in 94 different debates, panel and talks. The gender split of the speakers were close to 50% female, 50% male.

Among the speakers, more than 20% were youth (under 35 years of age.)  There was at least 131 international speakers including 79 from other African countries. In this way we are satisfied that the Forum was an inclusive Pan-African platform for science engagement.

Science Forum South Africa 2018 also played host for 73 exhibitors to showcase the National System of Innovation and international partnerships - 38% of the exhibitors were international partners and 13% were youth focussed.

The Forum is not only about talking of course.  Many concrete partnerships have been borne at the Forum – as demonstrated by the impressive progress report on the African Open Science Platform delivered by Prof Khotso Mokhele earlier.  We are very pleased to hear that the open science platform will be launched by 2020. Indeed Africa can no longer standby and watch other nations working at the cutting edge of science. Her scientists are just good as any other in other parts of the world. And I am happy that we have kept aligned to AU vision. Prof Mokhele, you have my assurance that we will make this happen.

Judging by its vibrant buzz, I have no doubt that the Science Forum South Africa 2018 Exhibition was again a dynamic marketplace for the exchange of ideas and fostering of partnerships and collaboration.  My warm congratulations go again to the winners of our Exhibition Prizes and Science Diplomacy prizes.

Once again, on behalf of the people of South Africa and our department I would like to express our deep appreciation to all our international partners who supported the Forum.  We deeply value the support and participation of the African Union Commission – custodian of our continental regional and innovation programmes.

We appreciate the participation and support from African Academy of Sciences, with whom we have just commenced a long-term partnership.  Our historic partners, UNESCO, the International Council for Science and the European Commission, your support is highly appreciated and we hope our partnership will continue to grow and to strengthen.

My gratitude goes to the Minister of ICT from the Kingdom of Eswatini, President of the Science and Technology for Islamic Republic of Iran, the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research from the Republic of Sudan.  We seek to advance science diplomacy building friendships and partnerships between nations and your participation goes a long way in helping us achieve this objective.

Science for development has become the lens through which all of us are beginning to look at Science. Indeed, all the great scientific discoveries would be meaningless if they did not find expression in harmonising the coexistence of mankind and the environment. The African continent is faced with many challenges of which science can play a larger role in providing solutions.

There are many scientists who have made huge contributions to the science enterprise while pursuing science for its own sake, but an even larger contribution was made by those scientists who combined their scientific pursuits with the development of the human community. It was Einstein who said:” It is not enough that you should understand about applied science in order that your work may increase man's blessings. Concern for man himself and his fate must always form the chief interest of all technical endeavours... in order that the creations of our minds shall be a blessing and not a curse to mankind. Never forget this in the midst of your diagrams and equations.”

Ladies and gentlemen, as we leave today we should bear in mind the Forum ignited conversations about science and therefore, these conversations must continue beyond this Forum. We should remember that building a science conscious society, a society that looks to science for solutions, is not an event but a process and this platform is one of the catalysts for this process.

This process is part of a larger course of renewal of the African continent, commonly known as the African renaissance. As our icon Tata Mandela put it when he reflected on the importance of the renewal of the African continent, he said:

“..Carthage was destroyed. Today we wander among its ruins, only our imagination and historical records enable us to experience its magnificence. Only our African being makes it possible for us to hear the piteous cries of the victims of the vengeance of the Roman Empire.

“…we can say this that all human civilisation rests on foundations such as the ruins of the African city of Carthage. These architectural remains, like the pyramids of Egypt, the sculptures of the ancients kingdoms of Ghana and Mali and Benin, like the temples of Ethiopia, the Zimbabwe ruins and the rock paintings of the Kgalagadi and Namib deserts, all speak of Africa's contribution to the formation of the condition of civilisation.

“But in the end, Carthage was destroyed. During the long interregnum, the children of Africa were carted away as slaves. Our lands became the property of other nations, our resources a source of enrichment for other peoples and our kings and queens mere servants of foreign powers.

“But the ancient pride of the peoples of our continent asserted itself and gave us hope in the form of giants such as Queen Regent Labotsibeni of Swaziland, Mohammed V of Morocco, Abdul Gamal Nasser of Egypt, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Murtala Mohammed of Nigeria, Patrice Lumumba of Zaire, Amilcar Cabral of Guinea Bissau, Aghostino Neto of Angola, Eduardo Mondlane and Samora Machel of Mozambique, Seretse Khama of Botswana, WEB Du Bois and Martin Luther king of America, Marcus Garvey of Jamaica, Albert Luthuli and Oliver Tambo of South Africa.”

Let us work together to put science at the centre of  rebuilding a better Africa in a better world, drawing on the legacy of all who had fought and sacrificed for the renewal of our continent.

In conclusion, let me thank the team that worked tirelessly to organise Science Forum South Africa under the leadership of DG Mjwara and a special appreciation to DDG du Toit’s team. Thank you very much for making this year’s event a success and more importantly in ensuring inclusivity of presenters and speakers. Team, you heard Tshegofatso Mafuna’s plight of ensuring that young people, especially learners, know about the Forum and its activities. The first task for next year is how are going to bring more of the learners to this Forum.

Once again I wish to thank all of you for your valuable participation and I wish you all a safe journey as you travel from here to your various destinations. Wishing you happy holidays.

I thank you