Your Excellency Zhang Jianguo, Vice Minister of Science and Technology of the People's Republic of China;

The leadership of the BGRIMM Technology Group, especially Mr Han Long, the General Manager;

Ladies and Gentlemen:

 

In the first instance, I would like to extend my sincere appreciation to Minister Wang Zhigang, through Vice Minister Zhang Jiangou, for the warm hospitality I have received ever since arriving in China.

 

I also appreciate the efforts of BGRIMM to arrange this celebration in China of the launch of the first South Africa-China Joint Research Centre, which is jointly hosted by South Africa's Mintek and BGRIMM.

 

The launch of the Joint Research Centre is of special strategic importance for three reasons.

 

Firstly, it will enhance our countries' abilities to harness science and technology for economic growth in the crucial domain of beneficiation of our mineral resources.

 

Secondly, its represents an important milestone in the strengthening of cooperation in science, technology and innovation between South Africa and China, an objective to which both Minister Wang Zhigang and I are firmly committed.

 

And thirdly, the overall political, economic and development partnership between our countries will be significantly strengthened.

 

Both South Africa and China are committed to investment in strengthening research and innovation capacities for the mining and minerals sector, given the crucial roles this sector play in our economies, especially with regard to employment creation.

 

In this regard, it is most fitting that last week's launch of the Joint Research Centre took place on the very day that Cabinet colleagues and I launched the new Mandela Mining Precinct in Johannesburg. The Precinct is a major South African public-private partnership to revitalise research and technological development capacity in the mining sector.

 

The work of the South Africa-China Joint Research Centre complements this national investment.  South Africa is privileged to be able to partner with a prestigious partner such as BGRIMM in research towards the development and use of mineral resources.

 

During President Xi Jinping's state visit to South Africa in July 2018, Minister Wang Zhigang and I signed an Action Plan for South Africa and China to establish a series of joint research centres. These virtual centres will enable the research institutes in our two countries to deepen cooperation by sharing experience, expertise and resources in pursuit of jointly defined common strategic research and innovation agendas.

 

It is illustrative of the fast pace that characterises South African-Chinese cooperation that only two months later we are able to celebrate the launch of the first Joint Research Centre. Furthermore, last week Vice Minister Xu Nanping of China and my Director-General, Dr Phil Mjwara, signed a memorandum of understanding to work towards the establishment of a second centre, focused on the forestry sector.

 

Indeed, whether it is through exchange programmes for young scientists or our cooperation on the SKA radio telescope project, collaboration between South Africa and China in science, technology and innovation is going from strength to strength.

 

President Ramaphosa has just returned from a state visit to China, during which he also attended the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation summit. I had the privilege to participate in both events. During all these political engagements, the role that science and technology can play in strengthening relations, trade and investment between our countries was emphasised.  This is an echo of the call President Xi Jinping made when he addressed the dialogue between eminent South African and Chinese scientists organised in Pretoria two months ago.

 

In our draft new White Paper on Science, Technology and Innovation, recently released, I put forward proposals to enhance our science diplomacy engagement. Relations with China will continue to be a strategic priority in this regard.

 

In conclusion, I would like to thank all who contributed to the organisation of today's event. However, this is only the first step. I would like to quote the well-known Chinese proverb that a journey of a thousand miles commences with a single step. What is most important now is to continue our efforts and ensure the Joint Research Centre delivers concrete outputs and maximum benefits for our two countries.

 

I thank you.