South Africa and the European Union (EU) are exploring more partnership opportunities on science, technology and innovation, the Department of Science and Technology (DST) said this week.
Future opportunities would be further discussed when EU commissioner for research, innovation, and science Maire Geoghegan-Quinn visits South Africa in November as part of a series of events celebrating 15 years of the SA-EU science and technology agreement.
The EU has provided €30-million between 2007 and 2013 to South Africa’s DST to supplement its budget aimed at using science and technology for poverty relief.
Speaking at the EU summit in Brussels, Belgium, on Tuesday, President Jacob Zuma said that South African science system made an important contribution to global science and technology initiatives from particle physics to exploring Mars. “In addition, South Africa is globally recognised for its groundbreaking efforts in using science and technology for the key challenges of our time including, food security, climate change, health, and poverty alleviation.
“The budget support is highly commendable. In this regard, the EU continues to be South Africa’s main development partner and we look forward to this continued partnership,” he said.
Further, Zuma noted that the ongoing challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality that South Africa was dealing with required such continued support from the EU.
“To further strengthen the bilateral partnership, we believe that we have to enhance trade relations, and tap further the potential that still exists to cooperate on infrastructure development, especially energy and transport,” he said.
European commissioner for development Andris Piebalgs noted that the EU and South Africa shared a common commitment to use innovation to tackle the key challenges of the day.
Both Piebalgs and South African Science and Technology 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 rural women own 40.
Two hundred rural facilities, including schools and clinics, have been connected to the Internet through the Wireless Mesh network project. Further, 218 digital doorways were deployed throughout South Africa which provided basic computer skills to rural communities.