Department of Science and Technology
Monday 24 April 2017,
CSIR International Convention Centre, Pretoria

Her Excellency, Vice Premier Liu Yandong of the People’s Republic of China

His Excellency, Wang Zhigang, Vice Minister of Science and Technology of the People’s Republic of China

Ladies and Gentlemen

It's a great honour to welcome Vice Premier Liu Yandong and her delegation to the campus of the our leading public research institute, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research here in Pretoria, and where our Department and Ministry of Science and Technology is also located.

Indeed, I'm pleased that science and technology enjoy such a prominent focus during the Vice Premier’s visit to South Africa. The South Africa-China People-to-People Exchange Mechanism, which the Vice Premier launched this morning, will make a significant contribution to strengthening cooperation in science and technology between our two countries.

Our Governments have agreed that the first focus of the Mechanism should be on exchanges that promote human capital development and R&D cooperation. As part of this effort, this morning Vice Minister Wang and I signed two Memorandums of Understanding – one focused on the exchange of young scientists between South Africa and China, and the other on the creation of joint South African-Chinese research centres, the first of which will focus on the strategic domain of mining and minerals technology. These instruments will contribute to further expand and deepen our strategic partnership in science, technology and innovation.

Against this background, we are gathered here this afternoon to celebrate another major milestone achieved under our partnership and that is the official launch of the South Africa-China science park cooperation. It was at the instruction of our Heads of State, President Zuma and President Xi Jinping, that South Africa’s Department of Science and Technology and China’s Ministry of Science and Technology have worked concertedly over the past two years to prepare this initiative.

Our goal is to develop in South Africa, through close cooperation with China, a science park that will become an instrument for inclusive growth and accelerated transformation of our economy. Our efforts are inspired and informed by China’s tremendous success in building science parks to drive innovation. 

The preparatory phase has now been concluded and I would like to express my appreciation to the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology and its Agency, Torch, as well as the Chinese Embassy in Pretoria, for the valuable assistance already provided to us.

Permit me to share a few reflections on the next steps for our cooperation. South Africa is committed to the development of a network of science parks and special economic zones at a scale and pace that match our fiscal and other resource realities. A key requirement for South Africa is for these developments to tackle the spatial legacy left by apartheid planning in a rational and sustainable way.
China is a strategic partner in this regard. For example, we hope to build on the successful industrial development partnership that has emerged through the development of the Special Economic Zone in our Limpopo Province. Similar to China, we are implementing Special Economic Zones to accelerate manufacturing and mining production. Increasingly, innovation will play a bigger role in the production activities in these Zones. We are confident that we will be able to build an industrial development partnership in high-technology areas with global growth potential. This includes ICTs, advanced manufacturing, the bioeconomy, and renewable energy.

As we drive the development of spaces and facilities for research, innovation and production, we will remain flexible and build on what we already have. At times, this will involve the location of innovation and production facilities in one space. At other times, it will involve the strengthening of existing innovation sites with more indirect links to production sites.

In advancing the current partnership, our analysis points to the development of multiple research and innovation spaces informed by but not bundled with a Special Economic Zone.

In parallel to advancing a long-term high-technology industrial development partnership, we have identified short-term opportunities which will offer significant opportunities for China to expand its R&D and innovation activities into South Africa.

This will include the development of new R&D facilities and infrastructure as well as strengthening existing facilities and infrastructures at our world-class universities, science councils and a number of private sector R&D efforts.

I am confident that the various interactions and visits to facilities that will take place over the next couple of days will allow our respective teams to identify and take forward opportunities that we can advance in the short-term.

In conclusion, I would again like to emphasise that this launch represents an important milestone in our strategic partnership.

South Africa appreciates the global leadership provided by China on how to turn science and research effectively into innovation and production. This includes the strengthening of the global innovation agenda during its Presidency of the G20 in 2016.

We are familiar with the successes that China has enjoyed in stimulating economic development, and supporting a transition to greater environmental sustainability. We have studied with admiration China's development of science and technology parks and industrial development zones in this success.

Vice Premier, South Africa is privileged to be your partner and we are fully committed to our cooperation with China.

I thank you.