ADDRESS BY THE DEPUTY MINISTER OF HIGHER EDUCATION, SCIENCE AND INNOVATION, MR BUTI MANAMELA, AT THE EMERGING RESEARCHERS SYMPOSIUM AT THE CSIR INTERNATIONAL CONVENTION CENTRE, 12 JULY, 2022

Programme Directors;

Diplomats from various embassies;

Chairperson of the CSIR Board, Prof. Thokozani Majozi;

CSIR Board members;

CSIR CEO, Dr Thulani Dlamini;

NRF CEO, Prof. Fulufhelo Nelwamondo;

CEO of CapeBio, Daniel Ndima;

CSIR Executive Management;

Officials from the Department of Higher Education, Science and Innovation;

Distinguished guests;

Our emerging researchers;

Ladies and gentlemen:

 

I am honoured to speak to you this afternoon at this important Symposium that is held under the ‘Innovation in Entrepreneurship’.

 

As you may be aware, this is an annual event and because of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, we couldn’t host it in the past two years.

I would therefore like to take this opportunity to commend you for making sure that we once against host this Symposium.

 

Through this Symposium, we aim to showcase the work that is being done by our emerging researchers here at the CSIR and at various universities. These are the young people we believe will help us, through research, development and innovation, to come up with innovative solutions to the challenges that face our country and humanity.

 

For this reason, while a large part of this Symposium seeks to empower our young emerging researchers with the necessary knowledge and skills to be able to compete with the best scientists and researchers in the world, we also seek to imbue our emerging researchers with a solid historical and social consciousness.

 

Ladies and gentlemen, our public research institutions cannot afford to produce scientists or researchers who are detached from the lived realty of our people, especially the poor and the marginalised.

 

Informed by this thinking, our priority as government is to ensure that we achieve higher rates of inclusive growth that generate sustainable jobs at the scale of social need.

 

For this reason, the economic reforms we are implementing, alongside measures such as industrial policy to support labour-intensive growth sectors, aim to drive growth and expand private sector employment.

 

However, we cannot simply wait for higher growth to create jobs, especially for young people, we need to take decisive but well thought-out action in the immediate term.

 

While we have made substantial progress in broadening opportunities for young people in basic and higher education, there are still many young people who have not been able to access these opportunities.

 

It is therefore our expectation that, our emerging researchers and scientists must also concern themselves with finding solutions for some of our country’s urgent social challenges. One of the most obvious being the challenge of unemployment and in particular youth unemployment.

 

While the latest employment figures give us some cause for optimism and reveal that some 370 000 jobs were created in the first quarter of this year, we however still have a huge mountain to climb in our quest to create more jobs, especially for young people.

 

According to Stats SA, youth unemployment in South Africa is at 66.5%. You don’t have to be a researcher or scientist to realise that this is a serious threat to our social cohesion as a society.

 

No society can expect to grow or thrive when most of its young people are not in any formal training or involved in meaningful personal development programmes.

 

 

As part of our contribution to extending opportunities to as many young people as possible, through our entity the CSIR, as the Department of Science and Innovation we are playing critical role in ensuring that we develop critical capacity in the areas of science, engineering and technology.

 

Towards this end, we have established the inter-bursary support programme for postgraduate studies to support capacity development in key strategic and priority areas identified in key departmental strategies.

 

The CSIR is supporting our drive to develop skills in these areas. This investment is to ensure that we support capacity development in priority areas.  To date, more than 1 500 students have been supported at the various levels (from Honours to doctoral level).

 

Additionally, through our Work Integrated Learning partnership with the CSIR, and the Manufacturing, Engineering and Related Services Sector Education and Training Authority (merSETA), we have funded engineering students to be appointed at the CSIR to get the necessary training that will assist them in completing their studies.

 

These are just but some of the examples of the initiatives that the CSIR is implementing with our Sector Education and Training Authorities.  As government, our interventions also seek to harness the capacity of the state to respond more creatively to the immediate needs of young people.

 

 

In this respect, we are specifically pursuing innovative ways of linking learning with earning. For example, the National Skills Fund is pioneering the pay-for-performance skills development model that will create 8 000 job opportunities for young people in digital skills.

 

The Youth Employment Service – known as YES – is another important initiative that has reached key milestones over the last year. Through its partnerships with the private sector, YES has created nearly 82 000 quality work opportunities for young South Africans.

 

This has injected over R4.6 billion into the economy through salaries alone. Furthermore, corporate partners use YES to build their own workforces by creating work experiences for youth in industries of the future.

 

These include industries such as digital, drone, green economy, urban farming, mining, global business services, creative industries and many more. I am pleased to see the CSIR participating in this initiative, which continues to contribute to alleviating youth unemployment and youth skills development.

 

At the CSIR, the programme has appointed 55 unemployed youth for 2022/23 and those of us who are active on social media may have seen some of these young people profiled by the CSIR in its social media pages in June 2022.

 

 

 

 

Ladies and gentlemen, today, our country produces four times the number of African graduates than we did in 1994. These graduates have gone on to become leading scientists, engineers, innovators and entrepreneurs. The emerging researchers who are here today are among the graduates in reference.

 

While this is reason to celebrate, it should however not make us lose sight of the fact that, many of our young people are still grappling with the complex and debilitating problems of structural exclusion from the mainstream economy.

 

As stated earlier, we still have many young people who are not in employment, education or training and in my view, this is the greatest challenge facing our country at the moment.

 

Therefore, as we rebuild in the aftermath of the pandemic, we must remain focused on growing our economy and ensuring it creates jobs for our young people.

 

In conclusion, I look forward listening to our keynote speaker, Daniel Ndima, who is the CEO of CapeBio. His story is an inspiration for many young people, especially those in the science and innovation space.

 

Ladies and gentlemen, no country can hope to achieve its development goals if it fails to invest in the potential of its young people. This Symposium is a clear demonstration of government’s contribution to unlocking the potential of our young people.

 

I wish you all a fruitful and fulfilling symposium.

 

Thank you.

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