President Zuma visit Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Site

Address by President Jacob G Zuma on the occasion of the visit to the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Site, Carnarvon, Northern Cape
9 Oct 2012

Minister of Science and Technology, Mr Derek Hanekom,
The Minister of Home Affairs, Ms Naledi Pandor,
Acting Premier of the Northern Cape, Ms GB Cjiekella,
All MECs here present,
Local councillors and community leaders,
SKA Stakeholder Forum Chairperson, Mr Wilfred Horne
Senior officials, Parents, teachers, boys and girls,
Goeie middag, Good afternoon, Molweni

It is indeed a great honour to join the people of the Northern Cape on this joyous occasion of celebrating South Africa’s successful bid to host the site for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA).

After nine years, the SKA International Organisation announced that South Africa, along with the eight African partner countries will co-host the SKA radio telescope with Australia.

This presents an opportune moment for South Africa to add to its long and distinguished history of excellence in astronomy.

This is also particularly exciting as it marks a significant milestone for South Africa and the African continent in the context of NEPAD and AU’s Africa Science and Technology Consolidated Plan of Action.

The Plan is based on three pillars, namely capacity building, knowledge production and technological innovation.

The Plan explicitly recognises that science and technology is a prerequisite for the rapid transformation African economies as well participation in the knowledge-based economy of the 21st century.

The awarding of this project to South Africa is a major step in solidifying science and technology not only in South Africa, but in the African continent as well as across the globe.

In this context, allow me to once again, congratulate our former Minister of Science and Technology, and our new Minister of Home Affairs, Ms Naledi Pandor, the former Deputy Minister and now our new Minister of Science and Technology, Mr Derek Hanekom and the entire team for their hard work which saw South Africa win the bid to host this major project on the African soil.

We also wish to record our gratitude to the AU for its endorsement, and the valuable contribution and unwavering support of partner countries in helping us to achieve this phenomenal milestone.

Today’s event is therefore an occasion to celebrate the success our African collaborative efforts. This is an important step in advancing and consolidating the African Agenda.

As a global scientific enterprise, the SKA project will open many doors of opportunities for emerging African scientists to collaborate with some of the world’s best in this field.

It will propel our continent to the forefront of radio astronomy and will significantly advance our continent’s scientific endeavours for many years to come. There is no doubt that through this massive project, South Africa and the African continent will have much to offer the world of science and technology.

It is inspiring and of great benefit to us to have been given this unique opportunity to share the best of South Africa and the best of African research with the rest of the world.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The location of the SKA site augurs well for government’s plan to build the first university in the Northern Cape province. It is also a major boost for the Karoo region which has been described as prime location for radio astronomy.

As the most powerful radio astronomy programme, the SKA project will provide a platform for both local and international professionals the appropriate environment to excel in research and innovation.

In its pursuance for excellence in the continent and worldwide, its location in the Karoo also augurs well for tourism in the region.

Government, through the Department of Science and Technology and its various agencies has identified investment in research, development, education and skills as one of Government’s central policy priorities.

These key areas are essential to economic growth and to South Africa’s effective participation in the knowledge-based economy.

The aim of the Department of Science and Technology is to realise the full potential of science and technology in social and economic development of human resources, research and innovation.

From the perspective of Government, the SKA project presents an opportunity to intensively recruit and train young South Africans to pursue careers in the field of science and technology.

In this regard Government has introduced various initiates that will contribute to reinforcing South Africa’s position as an emerging cutting edge research and innovation hub in the world.

We have identified human resource development particularly in science and technology as a high priority.

Since its inception in 2005, the South African SKA Project‘s human capacity development programme has spent nearly R42 million on capacity development in radio astronomy and the disciplines of engineering relevant to radio astronomy.

We also launched the South African Young Academy of Science in 2011, to facilitate and enhance the participation of young scientists in the mainstream of research and development, as well as in other key areas of science and technology.

In addition, Government plans to set up 26 science centres across the country. The centres are vital to the development of human capital and in inculcating the culture of excellence within the field of science and technology. In this way we can build a promising future underpinned by a solid foundation of excellent science and technological innovation.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The success and long-term sustainability of projects of this magnitude underscore the importance of working together to better the lives of our people. One of the major benefits of this project is that it will enhance Africa's capability in science and innovation.

It will create an enabling environment for Africa to make maximum use of scientific and accelerate technological innovations of relevance to her society. In so doing, Africans will be in the forefront of developing solutions for African challenges through science and technology.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Education and knowledge are essential pre-requisites for any country to achieve success. This will ensure that South Africa is not excluded or isolated in today’s competitive and globalised world.

It is for this reason that the current administration has identified education as a national priority.

I am pleased to note that the SKA project has also contributed to government’s priority of job creation and has also created extensive business opportunities for local people.

We hope that this project will open many more opportunities and will also herald a new era in the future development of Northern Cape and South Africa as a whole. We count on your support to make this project a huge success.

Minister Pandor and Minister Hanekom, I thank you and your team for your active participation and providing steady steer on the direction of this project.

We are proud to have such great and visionary leaders in our government.

Special thanks go to the leadership of the Northern Cape Government for paving the way for the establishment of this project and for their continuous support.

I would also like to thank the communities of Carnarvon, Vanwyksvlei and Williston for their continued support for this project.

Ladies and gentlemen, as the citizens of the African Continent we are proud that Africa has once again come back to the global collective leadership on science, technology and innovation. We are certainly once again in the cutting edge of science.

I thank you.

Issued by: The Presidency
9 Oct 2012

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