South Africa needs to become a "home of innovation", said Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor, at the launch of the inaugural Youth in Science, Technology and Innovation Indaba.

With the latest figures on youth unemployment in South Africa at more than 48%, Minister Pandor called for a bigger push to create innovative opportunities for young people in the country.

Addressing over 300 young people from around the country, Minister Pandor said youth employment was critical for a stable society and for promoting and sustaining national economic growth.

"A country enhances its prosperity through investment in new ideas, new opportunities and new jobs. It is our local innovators and entrepreneurs who will ultimately create the millions of jobs that we need to grow an inclusive economy," said the Minister.

The Minister mentioned young people like Ludwick Marishane from Limpopo, who has developed a gel used to wash without water, responding to the need to save water in the water-scarce southern African region.

"Ludwick knew what it was like when he was growing up in a township in Limpopo and so he dreamed up a type of gel that people can use to clean themselves – without water – when he was a pupil, and developed it into an award-winning product when he was a student," said the Minister.

Addressing the event's panel discussion, the President of South African Youth Chamber of Commerce, Thabelo Maleke, said it was worrying that young people were entering catering instead of focusing on the ICT sector. 

"Catering is not for young people – be innovative. No degree will open doors for you and nobody owes you a job.  Just start your own business."

Mr Maleke also called for a collaboration between government institutions and the private sector to improve funding for youth innovators.

"This collaboration needs to happen now to break the funding gap in the country."

South African Youth Council President, Thulani Tshefuta, said failure to invest in the ideas of our young people will increase dependence on the state.

"If we do not pay now, we will do so later in the form of free houses and grants."

Tshefuta added that science, technology and innovation should be exploited to integrate government services, saying that this could eliminate fraud in the system.

Held under the theme, "Creating opportunities for youth through science, technology and innovation", the event provides a platform for young people to share ideas and possibly get funding to scale up their ideas.

The two-day event has been organised by the Department of Science and Technology to find ways to create economic opportunities for South Africa's youth through science, technology and innovation.

Delegates attending the event are young people with an interest in using technology to innovate, some of whom are using science to solve some of the common problems in their communities.

Issued by the Department of Science and Technology

For more information contact David Mandaha at 072 126 8910 or Veronica Mohapeloa 083 400 5750.