Department of Science and Technology, South Africa

Kempinski Hotel, Accra

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

 

I wish to thank all my colleagues and our officials for successfully organising our meeting.

 

The process we are undertaking is going to shape future African collaboration in research and Innovation.

 

I believe it is very fitting for us to celebrate the first major milestone of our work in the great country Ghana, the pioneer country in the philosophy of Pan-Africanism. The great Kwame Nkrumah laid a foundation for African unity in action at the inception of Africa’s freedom from imperialism - our work in science and technology is picking up that spear and giving greater energy to the renewal of Africa.

 

South Africa has used the opportunities offered by astronomy to reshape our relationship with the rest of the world. We are firmly convinced that our joint African SKA initiatives are going to produce excellent science innovation and human development. Your may recall that on 25 May 2012, an international consortium chose to co-locate the SKA radio telescope in Australia and South Africa (together with eight other African partner countries). That day was Africa Day and in the midst of a meeting of the AU and the African diaspora we got the news and were convinced Africa’s time had come.

 

The SKA is one of the biggest scientific projects in the world.

 

Supported by 10 member countries – Australia, Canada, China, India, Italy, New Zealand, South Africa, Sweden, The Netherlands and the United Kingdom – SKA Organisation has brought together some of the world’s finest scientists, engineers and policy makers and more than 100 companies and research institutions across 20 countries in the design and development of the telescope.

 

As you know, construction of the SKA is set to start in 2018, with early science observations in 2020.

 

Scientists will use the SKA to try and understand how the universe evolved, how stars and galaxies form and change, as well as unravelling the mysteries of “dark matter” and “dark energy”. Scientists expect that the SKA will make new discoveries unimaginable at present.

 

South Africas SKA site in the Karoo is currently a hive of activity as teams of contractors are preparing the infrastructure for MeerKAT, our own telescope precursor to SKA. They are building roads, dish manufacturing sheds, antenna foundations, and installing the electrical and fibre-ducting reticulation network.

 

Africas share of the SKA project means that the continent is set to become a sought-after science destination. Over the next decades, many top scientists and research students will come to our shores for cutting-edge science. SKA will alter the nature of our relationship with the rest of the world.

 

The SKA will collect and process vast amounts of data and will stimulate cutting-edge advances in high-performance computing.

 

Producing the thousands of dishes required for the SKA within the projects time scales will also demand an entirely new way of building highly sophisticated and sensitive scientific instruments, which should lead to innovations in manufacturing and construction.

 

The SKA SA Project invests in developing skills for MeerKAT and the SKA through its dedicated Human Capacity Development Programme. Close to 900 people, ranging from artisans to postgraduate students and postdoctoral fellows, have already received bursaries and grants.

 

This mega project is therefore an ideal platform to excite young people about a SET career, and to train skills that will be in demand in the global knowledge economy of the future.

 

After the International Space Station and the Large Hadron Collider, the Square Kilometre Array is the world’s next great science project.

 

Through the Square Kilometre Array Africa has made a major investment in the future.