International Relations and Cooperation Minister, Dr Naledi Pandor has highlighted the importance of science, technology and innovation in the development of countries.

Speaking at the General Debate at the Summit of Heads of State and Government of the G77 + China, the Minister said that there “is no doubt science technology and innovation are strategic levers for development.”

“The struggle for the soul of the South and for unilateral global dominance has never been more intense and as the South, we must seize this historic moment to ensure we develop the ability to be free agents of a development agenda that will advance our battle against poverty inequality and unemployment,” she said.

Pandor was representing President Cyril Ramaphosa at the two-day Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Group of 77 (G77) + China in Havana, Cuba. The Summit began on Friday.

“Effective support for science research, innovation and digital technologies has the potential to advance these objectives but it must be buttressed by effective organisation, coordination and well-crafted G77 science diplomacy. South Africa confirmed the efficacy of science diplomacy in our collaboration in genomic sequencing research that assisted us in combatting COVID-19.

“Increased attention must be given to ensuring we have a science and innovation ecosystem that can support our ambition,” she said at the debate on Saturday.

She said investment in research universities, increased graduation of science and technology researchers at PhD level, centres of excellence and the building of robust science councils are needed.

She also spoke of ensuring equal access to science and innovation for women and girls.

“Since the achievement of freedom and democracy in 1994, South Africa has increased investment in research, development, and innovation. Funding to create ninety Centres of Excellence has been provided as well as support for thousands of young people to study for PhDs in science, engineering, economics, humanities, and technology. The support has included investment in young women scientists.”

Government has also funded over 200 Research Chairs and attracted local and international talent to these chairs.

She added that science partnerships between researchers and university systems must be formed drawing on the successes of Cuba, China and India.

“Greater focus must be given to Africa expanding its science and innovation ecosystem and to using science to resolve our most intractable challenges.”

“Mr President science and innovation will provide the means to grow a green economy in the South, to increase productive capacity and high value addition to our mineral wealth.

“Alongside pursuing this important agenda let us also reinforce our commitment to effective reform of the United Nations mechanisms, especially the Security Council and also actively jointly advance the fundamental reform of international development finance institutions,” she said.

Source: South African Government News Agency

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