His Excellency, Dr Harsh Vardhan, Minister of Science and Technology of the Republic of India

His Excellency, Mr Huang Wei, Vice Minister of Science and Technology of the People’s Republic of China

His Excellency, Prof Alvaro Prata, Vice Minister of Science, Technology, Innovation and Communications of the Federative Republic of Brazil

His Excellency, Ambassador Mikail Petrakov, Ambassador of the Russian Federation to South Africa

Delegations to the Sixth BRICS Science, Technology and Innovation Ministerial Meeting

Leaders of the South African National System of Innovation

Invited Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen

 

I already had the opportunity to bid you welcome to South Africa and its beautiful province of KwaZulu-Natal at last night’s Ministerial Dinner.  I trust everyone enjoyed the evening and judging by the vibrant discussions, the friendship that underpins our partnership is certainly the stronger because of it.  

 

It is now my privilege to welcome you to the start of the official proceedings of the Ministerial Meeting.  In my address, I would like to share with you the expectations of my Government for this meeting by reflecting on the strategic priorities, South Africa had wanted to achieve during its BRICS Presidency in the science, technology and innovation sector.

 

I would in the first instance like to thank Prof Anil Sooklal, South Africa’s BRICS Sherpa, for taking the time to join us this morning.  His reflection on the role BRICS cooperation in this sector should play as an integral part of the bigger BRICS Economic Partnership and political cooperation was especially valuable.  This will play an important role to guide our work, as the outcomes of the Ministerial Meeting will feed into the 10th BRICS Summit, which President Ramaphosa will host later this month.

 

I would also like to thank to Dr Xolani Mkhawanazi, Chancellor of the Vaal University of Technology for his address.  Dr Mkhawanazi is one of the eminent South African thought leaders on the role science, technology and innovation should play as an instrument for growth and development.   Whilst of course we are meeting here at the inter-governmental level, it was important that our deliberations be informed and be enriched by the perspectives of civil society and our bigger constituency of stakeholders and experts.  I am truly grateful to Dr Mkhawanazi for his contribution.

 

Minister, Vice Ministers, Ambassador – the theme chosen for our meeting is “Leveraging science, technology and innovation to enhance inclusive growth and development.”   The theme captures the objective we have set for ourselves in South Africa, to ensure that during our Presidency, we focus our efforts to enhance BRICS cooperation in new knowledge generation and its application, to improve the quality of living of all our citizens and to advance global sustainable development.

 

In this context, we had set three priorities for our Presidency.  Firstly, to ensure that our work in the science, technology and innovation sector achieves its full potential to support other areas of BRICS political, economic and social cooperation.   In this regard, I am delighted to report that that there are several science, technology and innovation initiatives, which will directly contribute to the outcomes foreseen for the 10th BRICS Summit, such as for example the proposal to establish a BRICS Vaccine Research and Development Centre.

 

President Ramaphosa has chosen as theme for the Summit “BRICS in Africa: Cooperation for Inclusive Growth and Shared Prosperity in the 4th Industrial Revolution.”  The work of the BRICS Working Group on Information and Communication Technologies and High Performance Computing, and its proposals for a flagship partnership to invest in big data technologies for socio-economic benefit, is an excellent example of our BRICS partnership responding to the opportunities and challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

 

Our second priority was to meaningfully strengthen the links and networks between our respective science and technology communities, because it is on their partnerships, which ultimately the success of our cooperation depends.  Last night at the Ministerial Dinner, one of the participants in the BRICS Young Scientists Forum shared her reflection on the outcomes of what by all accounts was a very successful event.  I am delighted that through our hosting of this Forum we have made a crucial contribution in investing in the development of the next generation of BRICS researchers, whose privileged and primary reference networks will be with their BRICS partners.

 

Later this morning we will also receive a report on the ongoing successful implementation of the BRICS Framework Programme for Science, Technology and Innovation.  With a growing portfolio of soon at least more than 50 collaborative research and innovation projects, supported by investment from all BRICS partners, we should not underestimate the significance of this Programme.   We actively worked during our Presidency to support its implementation as it was through these tangible, concrete projects, which enables BRICS partners to share experience and expertise, and jointly invest resources, that our cooperation truly comes to live and show that we are stronger together.

 

Our third priority related to the organisation of our work in this sector and finding way on how we can we improve the governance of our various partnerships with a special focus on improved planning, coordination and monitoring.  We have a rapidly growing list of working groups, networks, platforms and other structures supported through our cooperation.  It can be overwhelming and I am sure that we all agree efficient management of these can become a challenge if we are not strategic. 

 

It was, thus, essential in order to achieve optimal impact and most importantly to enable a prudent and strategic investment of resources, both financial and human, that we develop appropriate management and coordination mechanisms.  I look forward to the presentation of our senior officials later this morning , following work undertaken under our Presidency, on options in this regard, such as exploring the possible establishment of a BRICS science, technology and innovation secretariat.

 

Minister, Vice Ministers and Ambassadors – I trust this reflection on what we sought to achieve during our Presidency will be useful for the rest of our discussions.   I can only but emphasize South Africa’s commitment to the BRICS partnership.   During our Presidency we have sought to work concertedly with all of you to grow and enrich our cooperation and you can count on our ongoing effort in this regard.   We certainly look forward to support Brazil as incoming Presidency, in taking forward this agenda including the outcomes of this Ministerial Meeting, to which we will commit to, in the Durban Declaration later today.

 

I thank you and look forward to an engaging meeting.