‘French season’ aims to cultivate science, technology and business partnerships

13th July 2012 By: Keith Campbell - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

The French Season in South Africa, which is now under way, will include science, technology and business encounters, as well as cultural events. Running from the start of this month to mid-November, the Season is the first element in a two-part reciprocal Franco-South African programme to be followed next year by the second element, the South African Season in France.

“We try and develop a legacy of people work- ing together,” explains French ambassador to South Africa Jacques Lapouge. “We’ve done it with all our main partners but this is the first time we’ve done it in sub-Saharan Africa. There’s a lot of interest in it in France.”

Regarding technology, there will be an exhibition on sustainable energy, which will take place in Pretoria (July-August) and Durban (August-September). It has been put together by several French research institutions and will cover issues such as future energy supply obstacles, the link between energy and development, and climate change. The exhibition is a French contribution to the United Nations International Year for Sustainable Energy.

Also concerned with technology will be the inauguration of five Competitive Clusters in the agriculture and agriprocessing sectors. These are the result of cooperation between South Africa’s Technology Innovation Agency and its French counterpart, Oseo. This programme also includes French universities and companies and is aimed at South African small, medium-size and microenterprises.

Covering both science and technology will be a series of French Days at eight South African universities, during August and September. The institutions concerned (in chronological order, from the first of the Days to the last) are the University of Venda, the University of the Witwatersrand, Vaal University of Technology, Tshwane University of Technology, the University of KwaZulu-Natal, the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, the University of Cape Town and the University of Pretoria.

Each of the French Days will be centred on a set of four presentations, open to all students, and focused on fields of bilateral cooperation and areas in which the host universities have established excellence. In addition, there will be seminars which will focus on specific areas of science. “They will cover astronomy, palaeontology, linguistics and other topics,” reports Lapouge. There will also be displays and exhibitions. Each French Day will be tailored to the university hosting it and so each will be unique.

Regarding science, the Toulouse Museum will present an exhibition on prehistory at the Origins Centre at the University of the Witwatersrand. “We have a tradition of strong cooperation between France and South Africa in palaeontology,” points out Lapouge.

There will also be an exhibition at the Sci-Bono Centre, in Johannesburg, entitled Reacting to Chemistry. This will deviate from the other French Season events in that it will start in November and run until May next year. It will be aimed at popularising chemistry and will include automated chemistry experiments.

With regard to business, there will be a French business mission to South Africa in October. The French delegation is likely to be led by a government Minister and could include around 100 companies.

The mission will include a meeting of the Franco-South African business forum in Johannesburg. Topics likely to be discussed include developing Franco-South African partnerships in Africa, education and skills development, using urban development, transport, infrastructure and energy to improve quality of life, and improving the health system.

However, most of the French Season activities will be of a cultural nature, including film, music, dance and painting. The last category will include an exhibition in Johannesburg of nineteenth and twentieth century French (and resident-in-France) masters, including Degas, Léger, Manet, Matisse, Picasso and Renoir, on the theme of the human figure.