REMARKS BY THE DEPUTY MINISTER OF HIGHER EDUCATION, SCIENCE AND INNOVATION MR BUTI MANAMELA ON THE OCCASION OF THE OFFICIAL HAND-OVER OF BIODEGRADATION TESTING LABORATORY EQUIPMENT TO THE CSIR AS PART OF A PARTNERSHIP WITH JAPAN & UNIDO 23AUG22

The Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Her Excellency Minister Barbara Creecy;

 

The Ambassador of Japan to South Africa, His Excellency, Ambassador Norio Maruyama;

 

The Acting Representative of the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) in South Africa, Mr Levy Maduse;

 

The CEO of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, the CSIR, Dr Thulani Dlamini;

 

Distinguished guests and valued partners, ladies and gentlemen

 

Thank you for the opportunity to be with you today.  Today is a celebration of partnership. It is a celebration of a partnership where we have joined forces to put science and innovation at the service of our society – the very mission that our Ministry is entrusted with for our Government.

 

To our international partners, the Government of Japan and UNIDO, I would like to express upfront our most sincere appreciation.   However, it would be amiss for me to not immediately also acknowledge the critical contributions of South African civil society to this project, as represented by the African Reclaimers Organisation and the South African Waste Pickers Association.   

 

Today is, thus, a celebration of partnership, not only between the CSIR, one of our Government’s foremost research and technology organisations, society at large, and global partners –  but also between the Department of Science and Innovation and the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment.

 

Thank you, Minister Creecy, for your valued support and commitment to cooperate within the spirit of united and coordinated government action to advance our National Development Plan.

 

It is exactly these kinds of partnership, which South Africa’s new Decadal Plan for Science, Technology and Innovation, is proposing. The Decadal Plan notably seeks to harness partnerships to exploit new sources of economic growth for South Africa, such as the Circular Economy, as well as to respond to societal grand challenges such as climate change and environmental sustainability. I am delighted that as our Government is working to finalize the Decadal Plan in the coming months, this partnership is already putting it into practice.  Congratulations.

 

The Circular Economy, which our Decadal Plan would like to foster in South Africa, is the transformation from the current linear economy and its detrimental environmental impacts, to an economy where resources are managed to remain economically viable for longer.  Simply put the goal is to eliminate waste and to create a regenerative economy in terms of environmental impact, but also an economy, which supports growth and development objectives, especially the fight against poverty.  

 

This transformation is not limited to only managing and minimizing waste but will also develop value chains for every industrial sector to become more efficient in the utilization of all resources, including raw materials, water and energy.

 

Encouraged and directed by commitments under multilateral environmental agreements, such as the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, countries around the world, are adopting circular economy policies and strategies to remain globally competitive in a world that is obliged to transition to low-carbon economies.  

 

In South Africa our efforts in this regard will be guided by the Decadal Plan and its specific Science, Technology and Innovation for Circular Economy Strategic Plan, which will be developed.

 

The cooperation we are celebrating today was launched at a bilateral meeting between President Ramaphosa and the then Prime Minister of Japan, the much regretted and late, Mr Shinzo Abe, within the margins of G20 Osaka Summit held in June 2019. 

 

On that occasion Japan committed grant funding to be deployed through UNIDO to the value of 1.8 million US Dollars for a project to combat marine plastic litter in South Africa. 

 

The solid foundation laid by the Waste Research, Development and Innovation Roadmap coordinated by the Department of Science and Innovation then enabled the preparation of an ambitious project to promote the uptake in South Africa of plastics developed from biomass, to be implemented by the CSIR. 

 

The progress and achievements of the projects we are celebrating today, such as the reception of the laboratory equipment, is indeed fitting tribute to Prime Minister Abe’s vision and commitment to cooperation between Japan and Africa.  Ambassador Maruyama, I again present to you our heartfelt condolences on the tragic loss of Mr Abe.

 

The project’s specific focus on the resource management of biomass for bioplastic production, and plastic waste management is, as already stated, strategically aligned with the objectives of our Decadal Plan.  In South Africa and elsewhere in the world, there has been increased public awareness over the past decade of the impact of plastic waste on the environment, especially the oceans.  We have all been horrified by images of macro-plastics impeding the lives of sea animals including birds, or by the dangers of micro-plastics that can carry potentially harmful chemicals that accumulate in animals as they feed on each other. 

 

This challenge to eliminate plastic pollution of our oceans, informs the imperative need for the project to support the production of plastic from biomass.  Production from biomass, although it does not necessarily result in biodegradable plastic, and the laboratory equipment received will help us to determine that, produces plastic that has the same chemical characteristics as that produced from petro-chemicals. The starting material for the production of plastic is, thus, environmentally sustainable, but the obligation of ensuring the sustainable management of plastic waste remains.

 

The cooperation with the African Reclaimers Organisation and the South African Waste Pickers Association is, thus, crucial.  Not only is this a concrete intervention to accelerate the integration of waste pickers in the economy but it also assisting the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment to develop policy guidelines for promoting such integration.  This again demonstrates the alignment with the Decadal Plan and its focus on enhancing scientific advice for policy-making.

 

Our Decadal Plan is also firmly committed to international cooperation in science and innovation. As shown by the COVID-19 pandemic, and despite increased political polarization, globalization continues to advance as our world become smaller and nations increasingly share societal and environmental challenges.  International cooperation is, thus, imperative.

 

Cooperation such as the partnership we are celebrating today can contribute significantly to reinforcing international friendship, solidarity and understanding.  By working together, and by supporting the United Nations and its specialized agencies such as UNIDO, South Africa and Japan have the opportunity to make the world a better place.  Ambassador Maruyama, you can count on South Africa’s determined effort and contributions to ensure the success of this project. 

 

The Government of Japan remains a strategic partner for South Africa in science and innovation cooperation and we are determined to grow this cooperation even further. 

 

The Minister asked me to convey to the Ambassador that he looks forward to attending, in October, the renowned Science and Technology for Society Forum in Kyoto, and during his visit he will also specifically explore partnerships between South Africa and Japan in the hydrogen economy. This is an area with huge strategic potential for cooperation between our two countries, supporting a just transition to a more sustainable and reliable energy supply enabled by green hydrogen.

 

In conclusion, on behalf of the Ministry, let me once again express our sincere gratitude to all our partners, the Government of Japan, the Department of Forestry, Fisheries, and Environment, the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research as well as the Reclaimers Organisation and the Waste Pickers Association.

 

South Africa will in December 2022 in partnership with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and other international partners be hosting the World Science Forum 2022. Our Government has chosen as theme for the Forum, Science for Social Justice.  Promoting a Circular Economy will be one of the themes discussed at the Forum and I would like to invite you all to join us for this important event in Cape Town.

 

I thank you.

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