The Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) on July 8 officially launched the Science Diplomacy Capital for Africa (SDCfA) initiative, at an event attended by diplomats and stakeholders at the CSIR International Convention Centre, in Tshwane.
The wide array of speakers all welcomed the initiative, asserting that it aimed to use collaboration to further South African and African science, technology and innovation to tackle global challenges, capitalising on available opportunities.
The SDCfA aims to promote multilateral collaboration to address the challenges facing humanity.
It aims to promote science collaboration across Africa and beyond, leveraging and connecting technology innovation with humanity.
Moreover, it aims to embed a culture of learning, underscored by good governance.
It also seeks to put science diplomacy at the heart of Africa’s socioeconomic development and growth.
A joint initiative between the DSI and CSIR, it is also open to partnerships.
The SDCfA, will, from this year to 2023, be in the development phase, during which it will aim to position the initiative as a strategic enabler and support for global scientific initiatives.
It will also aim to add value through quality education, reduced inequalities and partnerships for goals.
From 2023 to 2025, the initiative will focus on value-add interventions aligned with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals – in the context of the Societal Grand Challenges.
This includes the hosting of lectures, seminars, networking and visits to science and technology centres, besides others.
Planning beyond 2025 includes the establishment of a legal entity for the SDCfA.
Common themes the speakers addressed included that the SDCfA had the potential to transform Africa into a global leader in science, with the potential to create a new cohort of global companies concerned with human development.
Moreover, it was noted that it could be used to advance scientific excellence in Africa and at a global level, embrace collaboration and upskill the next generation of scientists.
It was also mentioned that the SDCfA would build on established and entrenched partnerships that were already running with different entities and the CSIR and the DSI, to bolster these.
The importance of civil society participation was also emphasised, with this noted as key to ensuring dialogue in the sector.
Several key stakeholders from forums, departments, initiatives, companies, universities and organisations, welcomed the initiative and expressed their support and willingness to partner.
In a speech delivered on his behalf – the Minister being absent owing to other commitments – Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister Dr Blade Nzimande said the SDCfA would be a valuable instrument to enhance the country’s contribution to pan-Africanism.
He lauded the collaboration it would engender and said key contributions from the initiative would include that the very best of African and South African scientific input and advice would be used to tackle key challenges such as climate change, poverty, inequality, unemployment and the energy crisis.
This, he said, would be done through enhanced networking with the diplomatic community and African science expertise.
Nzimande added that SDCfA would also promote and assist in science diplomacy partnerships and provide a platform to leverage experts to make new programmes.
He emphasised that, for partnerships to be truly inclusive, they must include previously disadvantaged people.
While this initiative aimed to bolster international collaboration, it was important that there was a hub for it, it was noted, that aligned with other countries globally undertaking city-led scientific diplomacy.
Therefore, the City of Tshwane will serve as such, with the initiative to be run out of the CSIR.
Tshwane, as executive capital city of the country, was said to be ideal for this, with its hosting of considerable foreign embassies and international organisations, science councils, universities, and a thriving community of private sector entities involved in science, research, development and industrialisation.