Programme Director

Prof. Felix Dapare Dakora, President of the African Academy of Sciences

Dr Boitumelo Kgarebe, AAS Vice President for the Southern African Region

Prof. Nelson Torto, Executive Director of the AAS

Prof. Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, AAS Distinguished Fellow and former President of Mauritius

Prof. Edward Ayensu, Founding and Active Fellow of AAS

Prof. Barthelemy Nyasse, Secretary General

Members of the World Science Forum Steering Committee

Distinguished guests

Ladies and gentlemen


I feel honoured to be invited to this gala dinner tonight. It is not every day that one gets to be in a room with Africa's best and brightest. I know I had the opportunity to address you yesterday morning, but I would like to welcome you all to our country once again.


The Department of Science and Technology is delighted to be associated with the African Academy of Science. We share your strategic priority to invest in and leverage science and technology as instruments for growth that can be sustained in the long run to defeat poverty. Our new White Paper on Science, Technology and Innovation, which identifies the Fourth Industrial Revolution as a key focus, is aimed at placing science, technology and innovation at the centre of South Africa's development agenda.


We have conducted reviews of our national system of innovation and one of the things we have realised is that the system is not inclusive. The number of women, in particular black women, in research, science, technology and innovation is very low. This is one of the most pressing issues we are attending to.


I am pleased that the organisers saw fit to celebrate African women scientists so that younger women and girls can be inspired to take up opportunities and careers in science. Currently, African women only make up 30% of the total number of African researchers, which is disproportionate given that women make up 50% of the population.


This afternoon I was part of an OR Tambo memorial event which was hosted by the National Research Foundation and the Oliver and Adelaide Tambo Foundation. During this event we launched the OR Tambo Research Chairs Initiative, whose key objectives include –

  • contributing to expanded research and innovation capacities in and for Africa, in alignment with the African Union's Agenda 2063 and the Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa;
  • attracting and retaining excellent researchers and scientists in Africa's higher education system;
  • contributing to Africa's global research competitiveness while responding to the continent's socio-economic needs;
  • contributing to Africa's career paths for young and mid-career researchers, with a strong research, innovation and human capital development output trajectory; and
  •        honouring and promoting the legacy of OR Tambo, emulating his values of professional excellence, integrity, inclusiveness, honesty, humility and respect for humanity.

What is also significant about the announcement we made this afternoon is that 60% of the chairs will be awarded to women from the continent. This will play an important role in ensuring that women are included in African research efforts.


It is our firm belief that our advancement in science, technology and innovation and our socio-economic development as a continent is inextricably linked to the empowerment of women researchers.  We acknowledge your contribution towards bridging the gender divide by funding research that focuses on issues related to women and children.


I would like to congratulate the new Fellows and Affiliates that are going to be inducted tonight.


I thank you.