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Opening address by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa at the Third Science Forum South Africa, CSIR International Convention Centre, Pretoria

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Our Host and Minister of Science and Technology, Ms Naledi Pandor,
AU Commissioner for Human Resources, Science and Technology, Prof Sarah Anyang Agbor,
Ministers and senior government representatives from partner countries,
Leaders from the South Africa’s National System of Innovation,
Developmental partners in science and technology,
Eminent scientists, scholars and students,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
 
It is an honour and joy to address this, the third Science Forum South Africa hosted by our Department of Science and Technology.
 
On behalf of our government and all our citizens, we wish to extend a warm welcome to all delegates who have honoured our invitation to participate in this Forum.
 
The Forum brings together thought leaders, scientists, government representatives, industry leaders, students and civil society organisations.
 
Since its inauguration in December 2015, this Science Forum has become synonymous with building bridges to promote Africa’s growth and development through innovation and collaboration.
 
It is a Forum working to advance pan-African cooperation in science and technology to advance regional integration, peace, social cohesion, inclusive development and global partnerships.
 
It provides a platform to sharpen public debate on the role of science in the lives of people and how, through cooperation and partnerships, we can collectively advance the practice of science.
 
By breaking down barriers and challenging hierarchies in the science community, it has come to represent collegiality, collaboration and inclusivity among participants and contributors.
 
Today and tomorrow, millions of young people from our continent and across the world will be able to follow live on the internet our discussions and learn about inspiring, ground-breaking innovations.
 
This Science Forum must rekindle hope in a world of unending possibilities.
 
A world where imagination, innovation and scientific discovery allow us to dream of a better, more secure and more equitable future.
 
We are confident that it will move the youth of our continent to exploit the many opportunities that exist in scientific careers.
 
We have a responsibility to develop a community of young people that believe there is a future for science in South Africa and on the continent.
 
They must see themselves as agents of development, working to redesign the urban environment, expanding transport networks and building new, more sustainable human settlements.
 
They must see themselves as providing solutions on how best to return people to the land and build successful agricultural enterprises.
 
We look to the science community to partner with young entrepreneurs to support the development and sustainability of innovative businesses.
 
We look to you to lead the way in harnessing the immense potential of our youth.
 
In my interactions with young South Africans at our colleges, research institutions and science expos, I have encountered inspiring young people who are involved in cutting edge research and innovation.
 
These stories of success – of young people who often come from impoverished backgrounds – demonstrate that indeed young people can reach the pinnacle of their potential if we support and nurture their dreams.
 
We should never let the constraints of poverty and underdevelopment extinguish the imagination of young people.
 
In a rapidly changing global economy, our continent must invest in the development of young scientists to reap the economic and social benefits of the fourth industrial revolution.
 
The next industrial revolution must be inclusive. 
 
It is up to us to ensure that Africans are not treated only as consumers of technology, but also as developers and managers of innovation.
 
In this, our youth are our most valuable resource. 
 
If, as a continent, we contribute to setting the global science agenda, then the solutions that technology produces will be able to advance our specific developmental interests.
 
The countries of this continent should embrace the opportunity of the knowledge economy to ensure they do not remain dependent on commodity exports.
 
This requires the concerted development of human scientific capital.
 
The manufacturing and mineral beneficiation revolution that Africa has been seeking for many decades will not happen if we do not undertake a massive science skills revolution for the people of the continent.
 
Ladies and Gentlemen,
 
The theme of the 2017 Science Forum speaks to the importance of igniting conversations about science.
 
It is a call to action to make science work for the benefit of society.
 
In a world challenged by dwindling resources and rising inequality between individuals and among nations, the scientific enterprise cannot be indifferent to the needs of humanity.
 
The many challenges we face – from pandemics and food insecurity to poverty and climate change – require a concerted response from the global science community.
 
Sustainable global development needs intensified dialogue among all nations and committed engagement to work together. 
 
No country or research group can work or succeed alone.
 
Resources need to be pooled and expertise shared.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
 
South Africa’s National Development Plan and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals identify science as a crucial instrument for growth and development.
 
In South Africa, investment in science and technology to beneficiate South Africa’s raw materials has, for example, led to the development of an ambitious hydrogen fuel cell technology programme. 
 
The South African National Space Agency’s earth observation programmes are helping to ensure better management of our natural resources. 
 
South Africa is at the cutting edge of drug and vaccine development for infectious diseases such as HIV and AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. 
 
Through hosting the global Square Kilometre Array radio telescope, South Africa has developed significant technical and technological capacity to play a leading role in the big data economy.
 
We appeal to the African scientific community to leverage the capabilities of big data and other technologies for smart city development.
 
We must make use of the opportunities presented by the internet of things and the application of artificial intelligence for agriculture and renewable energy.
 
It is in our interest to exploit genomics for precision medicine.
 
South Africa remains committed to investment in science, technology and education.
 
It has been an important part of our economic development strategy since 1994.
 
The National Development Plan sees science and technological innovation as crucial for our country to move towards economic diversification and sustainability.
 
We are committed to work with African and international partners for sustainable development. 
 
The time is now for us to work effectively, diligently and smartly to rapidly drive positive change.
 
We wish you a truly successful and fruitful forum. 
 
We look forward to learning of the outcomes of the various debates – including the Ministerial panel on strategies to leverage science for socio-economic growth.
 
We wish to assure you that these outcomes will serve to inform the South African government’s policy development process.
 
I have no doubt that this Forum will be an excellent opportunity to build networks, friendship and solidarity – across differences of culture, language, nationality and political persuasion. 
 
Such solidarity is an important asset for our society and our continent.
 
Once again, welcome. 
 
We hope that our visitors will find time to visit our beautiful country and experience the warmth, hospitality and generosity of South Africans.
 
I thank you.