The year 2014 marked a milestone in South Africa's history, as the country celebrated 20 years of democracy. During the year government highlighted numerous achievements since the dawn of democracy.

In this spirit, the Department of Science and Technology (DST) celebrated its achievements by launching a coffee-table book called 20 Years of Science, Technology and Innovation in South Africa.

The book highlights the role and importance of science and technology in society. The DST's Director-General, Dr Phil Mjwara, launched the book on Tuesday evening, 9 December 2014.

In addition, the DST launched another coffee-table book marking the 10-year cooperation between South Africa and Japan in the field of science and technology.

The coffee-table book, 20 Years of Science, Technology and Innovation in South Africa, chronicles South Africa's journey in achieving government's ideal of "A better life for all" though science, technology and innovation. The book also records the country's endeavours to carve out a niche for itself on the global science and technology stage.

Addressing the launch event, Dr Mjwara said that over the past 20 years South Africa had increasingly become a hub of scientific and technological excellence in a number of areas, playing an important role in major international projects and making groundbreaking progress in research and development.

"For example, today we host a huge allocation of mega international projects, such as the Square Kilometre Array. South Africa is also increasingly making its mark in the international arena in terms of scientific publications," said Dr Mjwara, addressing officials from the Department's entities and from Japan, who attended the event.

The coffee-table book highlights the work that has been done since the adoption of the White Paper on Science and Technology in 1996 –when science only benefited a few – to today, when a majority of South Africans, especially the marginalised, are benefiting from science.

The publication draws attention to the many initiatives and programmes such as information and communication technology projects that are connecting rural communities to the Internet for the first time, research to discover vaccines for diseases such as HIV and TB, and the exploitation of indigenous plants for medicinal purposes, among other things.

It also provides insight into larger projects such as the Square Kilometre Array and the cutting-edge engineering involved in it, as well as industry projects such as a viable titanium industry in South Africa, the benefits of space science and how the exploitation of hydrogen and fuel cells can provider cleaner alternative energy for the country in the future.

As a developing country, South Africa recognises that international cooperation and science and technology partnerships are important in the endeavour to enhance its knowledge-generation capacity.

The second coffee-table book, South Africa-Japan Cooperation in Science and Technology, illustrates how a North-South relationship could be mutually leveraged to benefit both countries and their people.

The strong relations between South Africa and Japan are evident in the range of activities that have taken place since the signing of a bilateral agreement in 2003. The two countries have since invested more than R85 million (over R72 million contributed by Japan) in more than 50 joint research projects and other programmes that have provided South African researchers, scientists and students with access to Japanese expertise and science facilities.

The interim chargé d'affaires of the Embassy of Japan, Mr Hiroaki Fujiwara, expressed delight at what both countries had achieved since signing a bilateral agreement in 2003.

He remarked that more than twenty Japanese universities had frameworks for cooperation with South African universities and research institutions, including those between the Nagaoka University of Technology and the Tshwane University of Technology.

"I hope that the book, which has been launched today, will not only be very useful for reflecting on the past cooperation, but also be instrumental in further promotion of cooperation in science and technology between Japan and South Africa," said Mr Fujiwara.

Both Dr Mjwara and Mr Fujiwara paid tribute to former Japanese Ambassador Yoshizawa for his efforts to promote the science, technology and innovation cooperation during his term in this country, and they were looking forward to welcoming new Ambassador Hiroki in mid-December.