South Africa’s efforts to use science and technological for poverty alleviation were celebrated at an event organised on the side-lines of the 5th South Africa-European Union (SA-EU) Summit in Brussels, Belgium.
President Jacob Zuma led a government delegation to the summit, which took place on Tuesday, 18 September, under the auspices of the SA-EU Strategic Partnership and the SA-EU Trade, Development and Cooperation Agreement.
Speaking at the side event, President Zuma said South Africa’s science system made an important contribution to global science and technology initiatives, ranging from particle physics to exploration of Mars.
In addition, South Africa was globally recognised for its ground-breaking efforts in using science and technology to deal with problems such as food security, climate change, health and poverty alleviation.
The side event celebrated a strategic partnership in which the EU has provided R300 million to supplement the Department of Science and Technology’s (DST’s) own budget towards poverty alleviation.
For use between 2007 and 2013, this supplementary funding to support the DST’s existing programmes is the first and only example of development funding that is used to support the science sector to address poverty alleviation.
The EU’s Commissioner for Development, Andris Piebalgs, noted that the EU and South Africa shared a common commitment to using innovation for development.
As a result of successes in this regard, similar programmes were being considered in other countries. He also highlighted further opportunities for trilateral cooperation between South Africa, the EU and other countries.
Both Commissioner Piebalgs and Minister Naledi Pandor noted that the initiative had provided job opportunities for 759 people in rural communities and led to the establishment of 48 sustainable small businesses, of which 40 were owned by women in rural areas.
About 200 facilities, including schools and clinics in certain rural areas, have been connected to the Internet through the Wireless Mesh Network project. Furthermore, 218 digital doorways were deployed throughout South Africa, providing basic computer skills to rural communities.
The side event included reflections and discussions on future partnership opportunities between South African and the EU.
These will be explored further when the EU Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, visits South Africa in November for a series of events to celebrate 15 years of the SA-EU Science and Technology Cooperation Agreement.