Programme Director;

Ms Maria de Cândida Pereira Teixeira, Angola's Minister of Science and Technology;

Prof. Ali Abbasov, Minister of Communications and Information, Azerbaijan;

Dr Adel El-Beltagy, Minister of Agriculture and Land Reclamation, Egypt;

Dr Elías Micha Zaga, representing Dr Enrique Cabrero Mendoza, Director of CONACYT, Mexico's National Council of Science and Technology;

Distinguished guests;

Ladies and gentlemen:

South Africa places great value on opportunities for the exsite2016 of knowledge and sharing of best practice provided by forums such as TWAS.  It is therefore a privilege for me to be here today for the TWAS General Meeting.  Given the interplay between development and the global challenges of our time, it is only logical that we, as the representatives of our various countries and governments, gather in this manner on a regular basis to reflect and celebrate our continuing development and the successes we have achieved.

Before I bring you up-to-date with what has been happening in South Africa on the science front and how we are cultivating young scientific talent, allow me to give you some background on the South African Department of Science and Technology.  We are responsible for creating a prosperous society that derives enduring and equitable benefits from science and technology, and therefore have to steer research and development efforts towards the pursuit of practical, tangible outputs that will benefit our citizens by responding to global challenges and South Africa's specific needs.

Like most of the world, South Africa is desperate for relevant, innovative thinking and ideas.  Our public policy seeks to foster socio-economic growth by focusing on increased investments in research, human capital development, and trade in high-technology industries through the reinforcement of industry-science linkages.  This is the necessary shift towards a more knowledge-based economy, characterised by an environment in which the production, exploitation and dissemination of knowledge play an increased role in enhancing productivity, as well as driving growth and development.

To this end, the South African Department of Science and Technology focuses on the development of an institutional framework that gets the best out of the science and technology system through human capital development, infrastructure provision and support, and research, development and innovation support.

It goes without saying that the participation of young scientists in our country's efforts to address socio-economic issues and move towards a knowledge-based economy is absolutely vital.  Young scientists represent the future of our country's science and technology development.

In 2011, we established the South African Young Academy of Science (SAYAS), to ensure that young scientists contributed to solutions to national and global challenges.  This diverse group of young academics was created after a stringent process of individual selection, executed and administered by the Academy of Science of South Africa.  South Africa is one of 20 countries that have supported their young scientists by establishing a Young Academy, an important milestone in the South African science and higher education sectors.

Part of SAYAS's mandate is to act as the voice for young scientists in South Africa.  To help it obtain a deeper understanding of the needs and challenges of young scientists in the country, SAYAS commissioned a study on the research experience of young scientists in South Africa, and produced a report in November 2013.  This should help us to identify shortcomings in our science sector and give us evidence to inform future decisions.

SAYASrecently signedanagreementto includeSouthAfricaasoneofthe manycountriesparticipatingintheGlobalSTEMAlliance,theNewYorkAcademy ofSciences initiative to address 21st century challenges related to education, innovation and the workforce.  The partnership has committed to a one-year virtual mentoring programme to be launched in 2015, aimed specifically at schoolgirls.  The mentors will be femaleprofessionals identified by SAYAS.

One of my department's most important tasks is providing an environment conducive to scientific endeavour, research and innovation. We remain committed to supporting research development through improved institutional support and delivery programmes. In the past financial year, through the National Research Foundation, we funded over 9 700 postgraduate students at honours, master's and doctoral level.  Over 800 interns in various science fields were supported during the same period.

We realise that supporting students at tertiary level only is of little use if we cannot inspire high school pupils to choose to study mathematics and science. We have therefore invested heavily in initiatives aimed at attracting young people to these fields, such as National Science Week and World Space Week, both of which are also used to inform pupils about career opportunities in the sciences. We also support various Olympiads and science expos.

Ladies and gentlemen, a quick look at the milestones and events of thepast five yearsreveals that South Africa is rapidly positioning itself as aninternational player in science, technology and innovation.

The Department has adopted and embraced the globally accepted notion of a PhD as a driver of innovation and global competitiveness, given the skills set that a PhD requires. We also know that higher qualifications lead to higher income levels, and local and international studies show that this correlation is more pronounced at master's and doctoral levels.

We have established two premier programmes to support established researchers in their efforts to produce more research and train more postgraduates. The South African Research Chairs Initiative provides R1,5m to R2,5m per annum to each of 150 world-class professors, while the Centres of Excellence Programme is supporting 14 centres with funding of about R15m each per annum for a minimum of five years, and with the possibility of funding for up to another 10 years. These interventions have played an important role in the increase in doctoral graduates from 1 200 to 1 700 over the past five years, and contributed to the doubling in the country's research output in the past six to eight years.

As you are no doubt aware, South Africa, together with eight other African partner countries, is to host the greatest portion of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope, the world's biggest radio telescope and one of the signature global science projects of the 21st century.  Through the SKA's "Youth into Engineering" programme, about 600 students (in engineering, mathematics, physics and astronomy at undergraduate and postgraduate level) have received bursaries and scholarships, including many students from other African countries.

I hope that I have been able to sketch a picture of how South Africa continues to introduce and implement mechanisms that will help it to develop the country's human resources, strengthen its innovation capacity, and produce knowledge in niche areas in order to improve socio-economic development and transform itself into a knowledge-driven economy.

In closing, I would like to thank the Sultanate of Oman for hosting this prestigious event, which was organised by TWAS to allow politicians, researchers and scientists from the South to interact with the aim of ensuring a brighter and better future for developing countries.  I look forward to enriching discussions in the days ahead.

Thank you.