Strategic partnerships in science, technology and innovation will play an essential role in economic recovery, President Cyril Ramaphosa has said.
Higher Education, Science and Technology Minister Blade Nzimande delivered the president's speech on his behalf during the National Summit on Science and Innovation Response to Covid-19 on Friday morning.
In the speech, the president said as countries strive to rebuild and repurpose their economies, they would need to explore opportunities in sectors such as low-carbon energy, the circular and green economies, smart manufacturing and Big Data.
"There is immense potential for kick-starting economic growth in the uptake of innovation and in driving technological solutions for the delivery of services.
"It is crucial that we maintain the momentum of international cooperation and solidarity to ensure inclusivity not just in the provision of life-saving therapeutics for Covid-19 but also in sustainable economic recovery," Ramaphosa said in the speech.
The virtual summit was held under the theme "Harnessing science, technology and innovation in response to Covid-19: A national and international effort".
Among those in attendance were World Health Organisation (WHO) director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, as well as Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize and African Union Commissioner for Human Resources, Science and Technology Professor Sarah Anyang Agbor.
Ramaphosa said the conference provided a valuable platform to advance efforts to curb the virus and was an affirmation of the necessity of health innovation as an important resource for the common good.
He added that science, technology and innovation were key to healthier populations, productivity and progress.
"As we collectively strive to overcome this pandemic, we must share experience and expertise. We must pool resources through joint investments, data sharing and reciprocal access to research infrastructure," the president said.
Ramaphosa also shared that South Africa continued to benefit from an international partnership, including the Brics alliance and the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, in its fight against the virus. He said South Africa, as chair of the African Union, in May committed to co-investing in the development of diagnostics and therapeutics and the search for a Covid-19 vaccine.
"We are currently in the process of finalising a R25-million investment to boost pan-African vaccine manufacturing capabilities through the African Renaissance Fund."
He said science, technology and innovation had proved to be an important tool for generating valuable insights and for the delivery of effective solutions.
Platforms such as the summit allowed for scientists, governments, business and civil society to share experiences and best practices to chart a way forward, Ramaphosa added.
"Soon we will witness the very first ventilators produced by the South African National Ventilator Project coming off the assembly line at a factory in Cape Town.
"These locally-produced ventilators will complement existing stock in the public and private health system and those purchased from or donated by other countries."