Department of Science and Technology

Thursday, 6 October 2017

Birchwood conference centre, Boksburg

 

The Expo is the biggest science fair on the African continent.

 

Think of that. The biggest in Africa. What an achievement.

 

It’s come a long way since the Dr Gray founded the Expo in 1980 for a few Pretoria schools.

 

ANC icon Oliver Tambo would have been 100 years this year. Many people think of him as politician and liberator, but he was a teacher of mathematics and science for 10 years at St Peter's Secondary School in Rosettenville, Johannesburg. He would have been delighted to see it now.

 

I have enjoyed walking around the exhibition this morning and I confess that I’m excited and impressed - excited because I think I can see the future in what you have built, and impressed because it’s clear to me that young people believe they can change the world.

 

I know what the surveys say. Three out of four South African teenagers believe that technological or scientific innovation can solve the problems of climate change, energy scarcity, and food security. It’s that belief that I see here in you - young scientists, young inventors, and young innovators.

 

In government we believe that innovation is critically important to South Africa’s future, and particularly for the promotion of startups and small and medium enterprises. Even big business is a beneficiary.

 

Government is establishing better and better contact with young innovators. Every year more than 30 000 learners participate in Eskom Expo at school, district, regional and national level, and you represent the core group of young scientists and innovators of the future.

 

The top performers at the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists will represent SA overseas at selected events. This is the training ground for our national representatives.

 

The numbers of black learners from disadvantaged backgrounds is increasing every year, but even more are needed, and this required ever-greater encouragement.

 

I believe that the process of meeting fellow participants and having sight of their projects is crucial to spurring you to even higher achievement. To be as good as you can be.

 

I also believe that interacting with the judges and the judging process is a very good learning experience for all participants.

 

Completions and Olympiads are ideal vehicles for identifying youth with talent and potential. Do more do better.

 

Many of you are here with a friend or are exhibiting a group project. You will find that two brains are better than one. This is because individuals, no matter how talented, have different strengths, and when they work together as a team, they enhance each other’s work.

 

I’m particularly pleased that Eskom Expo group projects gave you opportunities to develop and learn life skills like teamwork and collaboration. The recognition of the value of teamwork is impressive aspect of Eskom Expo.

 

Learn from this experience, live this experience, and follow a career in science, engineering or technology.

 

The fact that you are here at the national finals of an important contest shows that you have what it takes to be student of and practitioner in the world of science and technology!

 

You are here either because you are able to design an experiment to test a hypothesis or because you are able to design a new method of investigating a new solution to a problem. You have what it takes to be a scientist.

 

I would like to challenge you, young scientists and innovators, to make your mark.

 

We need workable scientific and technical solutions. And not just any solutions, but answers to some of the specific challenges facing our country.

 

Climate changes and global warming are far more threatening to poor than to rich countries. Can you innovate to find an African solution to spreading deserts, floods, famines? Renewable energy is vital if we are to replace the burning of fossil fuels like coal. Can you think of a way to make this more of a practicality? We have plenty of sun here. How can we use the sun? Can we trap the energy in the winds that sweep across our mountain tops or the waves that beat constantly on our 3,000 kilometres of coastline? Are you the one who can see a way through this? Are you up to this challenge?

 

I thank the leadership of Eskom, for their vision and foresight in identifying the need for Expo for Young Scientists, and for their ongoing sponsorship and support, even during difficult economic conditions.

 

Thanks for creating the opportunity for our young people to display their scientific endeavours to their peers and the public in general.

 

I congratulate you all on reaching the National Finals of Eskom Expo for Young Scientists, 2009.

 

To the winners, I wish you all the best. To those who do not win, take heart and learn, then come back here and win next year. And wish all participants success with your examinations and in your future careers, which I sincerely trust will be in the sciences, engineering or technology.

 

I thank you.