Africa must participate in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Professor Sarah Anyang Agbor, African Union Commissioner for Human Resources, Science and Technology; deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa; DST Minister Naledi Pandor and Professor Mike Bruto, founding director of the Cape Town Science Centre

Professor Sarah Anyang Agbor, African Union Commissioner for Human Resources, Science and Technology; deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa; DST Minister Naledi Pandor and Professor Mike Bruto, founding director of the Cape Town Science Centre

The next industrial revolution must be inclusive and the science community must ensure that young people are empowered to participate in it, said Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, addressing the thousands of people who packed the CSIR for the first day of the Science Forum South Africa (SFSA).

Ramaphosa joined Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor for the opening ceremony in Pretoria on Thursday, December 7.

Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor

The deputy president said the SFSA is working to advance Pan-African cooperation in science and technology to advance regional integration, peace, social cohesion, inclusive development and global partnerships.

He said that 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,” said Ramaphosa.

He added that, “SFSA 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 equitable future.”

Ramaphosa said a community of young people that believe there is a future for science in South Africa and on the continent must be developed.

“We must ensure that the youth see themselves as agents of development, working to redesign the urban environment, expanding transport networks and building new, more sustainable human settlements.”

The deputy president called on the science community to partner with young entrepreneurs to support the development and sustainability of innovative businesses.

He said the Fourth Industrial Revolution is here with us, and we need to take action to enable young people to participate.

“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,” he said.

“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 her address, Minister Pandor said that South Africa has tried to put the best science and technology policies in place. “We focus on promoting specific areas for R&D [research and development] – astronomy, energy, bio economy – in which we are becoming world leaders. We invest in knowledge-based activities that are driven by the quality of the scientists we train, the quality of our research and development infrastructure, and the enablers we have put in place to turn scientific research into technology.’’

With the African Union commissioner for human resources, science and technology and the chief executive of the Nepad Planning and Coordinating Agency, as well as ministers from Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Jamaica, Namibia, Uganda and Swaziland, in attendance, Pandor said that the Science Forum South Africa is already regarded as one of Africa’s premier platforms for public debate on science.

Pandor said science is an integral part of Africa’s growth and development agenda and South Africa is committed to playing its part in contributing to developing Africa’s capacities for science and technology. “I’m confident that our Forum will help to foster a continental consensus on the critical role of science in African society.”

Over the next two days several panel discussions will be held on a variety of science, technology and innovation topics, together with interesting science talks. Science councils, embassies and several other organisations are also exhibiting locally developed technology.

SFSA provides a platform for broad discussion among a variety of science, technology and innovation role-players. For more information, visit www.sfsa.co.za