Hundreds of people descended on the CSIR International Convention Centre for the first Science Forum South Africa, which kicked off in Pretoria today.

Minister of Science and Technology Naledi Pandor delivered the opening address attended by African Union Chairperson, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, founder of Japan's renowned Science and Technology in Society Forum, Mr Koji Omi, Dr Jean Claude Burgelman, European Commission and Prof. Gordon McBean, International Council of Science, among others.

Across the world nations increasingly seek to harness the potential of science as an instrument for growth and development.  Science is also an integral part of the global effort to advance sustainable development.

The Science Forum is a "public science" event, open to all interested stakeholders.

"Our key motivation is to foster public engagement on science and technology, to showcase science in South Africa, and to provide a platform for building strong African and global partnerships," said Minister Pandor.

The Minister said the primary rationale for the conference was the "conviction that science, technology and innovation can and must play a central role in achieving sustainable development.

"Africa cannot advance without investing in science. At present, there are efforts to enhance the status of science and to increase investment in research development and innovation.

"Unfortunately, science is still at the margins of government attention – seen as less significant than water scarcity, food security and disease burdens. Yet all of these can be addressed through science," the Minister explained.

Dr Dlamini-Zuma echoed Minister Pandor's sentiments. Unpacking the AU's Africa Agenda 2063 (the AU's blueprint for sustainable development for the continent), the AU chairperson highlighted that science was critical in growing and modernising every aspect of agriculture in Africa, from agricultural equipment to agroprocessing.

Dr Dlamini-Zuma said that Africa Agenda 2063 also recognised the importance of investing in the continent's young people, particular in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. She said that mathematics and science teachers needed to be trained.

Founder of Japan's renowned Science and Technology in Society Forum, Mr Koji Omi, said in his address that Africa had great potential, and could create a bright future through science and technology. He said Japan supported Africa's endeavours to address its numerous challenges by sharing its knowledge.