Department of Science and Technology

6 July 2017                 


Gallagher estate, Midrand

Good evening to you all. I wish to express my warm congratulations to all the participants and award winners.

Olympiads are a very important means of encouraging young people to become scientists and of recognising their hard work and bright ideas. I am pleased that the Olympiad draws participants from other countries. A special word of welcome to you. 

South Africa and the African continent need to develop strategies to increase the number of young people competent in maths and science and ready to play a role in Science Technology and Engineering.

It is clear from developments in science and technology in the past 30 years, that future professionals and entrepreneurs have to be ready to assume leadership in a world in which digital technologies will play a key role. We will have to ensure that every town, village and township feels the impact of what is being called the 4th industrial revolution.  

I think that the work we are doing in the science and technology sectors is helping us to come to terms with the complexities of inclusivity in the opportunities of the digital age.

How we innovate will be crucial to whether we are able to integrate the benefits of the digital economy into the transformation of our economy, it's manufacturing processes and its local and global supply chains. While innovation alone is not the answer to faster growth and inclusive development, it is a vital catalyst.

Innovation is complex to promote. 

One of the skills we should encourage in our schools is curiosity and creativity. This should happen in all areas of knowledge. There are many challenges in our societies, we need your talent to devise solutions and new approaches.

There are many exciting puzzles that young minds such as your own could play a role in resolving. For example, what should be done to encourage millions of young people to love and succeed in Mathematics. You could help us find a solution to this.

Senior scientists in the health sector are keenly researching treatments and diagnostics for addressing South Africa and Africa’s disease burden of tuberculosis and HIV. Young Olympiad participants tend not to be asked to focus on this aspect of our problems. Yet, we continue to see new infections among young women. It here any campaign you could competitively devise that would reach millions of young women and support them to remain HIV negative?

As youth in our country, some of the brightest you are aware of youth despair due to unemployment – what do you think we could do about such young people?

We constantly tell you Africa is a rich continent, with abundant lands, youth and a variety of mineral resources. We are keen to beneficiate our mineral resources and develop new industries and products in Africa. Again what ideas do our Olympiad champions have.

As a country we are intensifying our efforts to produce more scientists and knowledge workers.

We are internationally competitive and recognised in astronomy, and we are one of the two countries that will host the Square Kilometre Array. 

As a country rich in human fossil remains, we are also a leading country in palaeontology and related sciences. 

Our scientists are leading the charge towards finding a vaccine for HIV.

We are increasing our investment in research and development, and particularly investment in the renewal and modernisation of the infrastructure devoted to science and technology. 

We have research councils that are the envy of the world. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Agricultural Research Council, the Medical Research Council, Council for Geosciences and MINTEK are ideal places in which we hope you will start your science careers.

It is in these institutions and in our universities that we hope you will develop the solutions to the issues I raised earlier. One of the areas that is often of great interest in competitions such as these is renewable energy resources. I am keen to see real grappling with a challenge and innovation opportunity. Perhaps being assigned a village with no electricity and having to provide clean energy to the whole village or develop a plan.

The Olympiads are playing a critical role in shaping a new future for you and for South Africa. I wish to thank all the teachers and our institutions for the role they play in ensuring the success of Olympiads, especially the NRF, SAASTA and Dr Beverly Damonse and team.

Thank you.