The South African Government, through our Department of Science and Innovation, would like to congratulate Nature on this initiative. In Africa, as elsewhere in the world, science has been at the forefront of the response to the Covid-19 pandemic, from both a public health and economic recovery perspective. To progress African science requires better communication and enhanced global partnerships, and Nature Africa can play an important role to foster such efforts.
Ladies and gentlemen, over the decades Nature has gained global recognition for the steadfast pursuit of its mission to serve scientists by publishing after rigorous review results of scientific advancement and then disseminating these results to enable science to serve society. This should also be the mission of Nature Africa. I would like to share with you three suggestions of ways through which Nature Africa could contribute to enhancing the role African science plays globally.
Firstly, Nature Africa should assist to raise increased international awareness of the crucial, often essential roles, African scientists are playing to respond to global challenges such as Covid-19, global change and food security. These contributions are often not appreciated or celebrated as they should be. Our world will for example not be able to confront pressing global concerns with regard to poverty, inequality and unemployment without the contributions of African social scientists.
We will not achieve the objectives of the Sustainable Development Goals set by global leaders without the contributions of African scientists.
Nature Africa should help to raise this awareness that support for African science is an investment in a better world for all. There is no lack of material for good news stories to be communicated but what we do need is more communication platforms with global reach, and Nature Africa will help to fill this gap.
As a second action, I would like to recommend that Nature Africa should critically interrogate the existing practices of, and serve as a platform for debate, to find the best modalities for Africa’s participation in global science partnerships. From a South African perspective, it is crucial that values such as co-ownership and shared responsibility underpin international cooperation. African scientists should be regarded as full and equal partners in global collaboration, and sadly this is at times, not the case.
International funding as important as it is also has the dangerous potential to divert focus away from Africa’s own research priorities. The best response to avoid these pitfalls is for African Governments and bodies such as the African Union to assume our own responsibilities to fund and support African research. We count on Nature Africa to keep a vigilant eye on the design and implementation of international cooperation instruments, and the honoring of commitments by all concerned, to ensure the full potential of African science to advance equitable and sustainable global development is unleashed.
My third and last call to Nature Africa is to inspire, especially the next generation. I am delighted to see the participation of many of Africa’s best emerging young researchers in today’s event.
African scientists continue to make us proud on the global stage and their stories must be told to encourage the next generation who will follow in their steps, and awake and sustain general public interest in science.
South Africa is proud to host with Australia the world’s largest radio telescope, the Square Kilometer Array radio telescope, the SKA. Our MeerKAT telescope, a precursor to the SKA, designed and built by African engineers, is already delivering groundbreaking scientific discoveries. African scientists are, thus, leading the charge to fight pandemic disease and fight hunger, but are also playing their part as leaders in frontier science.
This is the vision for the Africa we want – a better Africa in a better, more just world enabled by science. We look forward to good cooperation with Nature Africa as we continue to pursue this mission, reinforcing global solidarity and partnership. We also look forward to welcome all of you to South Africa for the World Science Forum in 2022, which will be convened under the theme of Science for Social Justice, as well as our annual Science Forum South Africa in 2021. The objective of our Science Forum is to ignite conversations about science, exactly as Nature Africa will be doing. I thank you.