Human Rights


DURBAN, The World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa, currently taking place in Durban, can produce outcomes which can turn around the lives of ordinary people in South Africans and on the continent at large, says South African Science and Technology Minister Naledi.

If we are able, through deliberations here, to secure increased investment for South Africa, it benefits all our people. If we are able to secure increase investment for Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Lesotho, for Swaziland, or for all the countries gathered here, it benefits all people on our continent, Pandor said as the three-day forum began at the Durban International Convention Centre Wednesday.

If we grow our economies, if we have more businesses, if we have more investment in science and technology, more investments in agriculture, all of us will benefit as a people. So I don't think that [other people] not being here means you are excluded from benefiting, should concrete results, which are what we are hoping for, emerge from this meeting.

Pandor said it was important to note that many poor communities across the continent were represented at the high-level WEF summit through civic society.

The many people we think are not here are represented by civil society organizations. There is a range of NGOs (non-governmental orgaanizations) that are attending this WEF because our government of South Africa has always ensured that we invite civil society to be part of this meeting, she said.

Pandor, a fierce campaigner for increased budgets for science, technology and innovation on the continent, said the WEF was another platform to solicit for bigger budgetary allocations towards the sector.

Without science we cannot have change. We are not able to address the range of difficulties that we face as a continent. Through science we will discover means of controlling HIV, we will address the difficult diseases which kill hundreds of thousands of Africans on the continent," she said.

"But we have to invest in research, science institutions and we have to utilise the solutions that come out of that research. Science has the answer for many challenges in our societies. We need to up our investment [into science and technology]. We must make sure that at minimum, even that minimum is below what the rest of the world is doing, we invest in science and technology. Investing in science and technology is imperative.

Many voices here have to ask our leaders questions about why they are not taking seriously their commitment to invest at least one per cent of GDP in science and technology. I think leaders who, in their speeches talk about development and don't mention science and technology, we should ask them to leave WEF, they don't deserve to be here.

More than 1,000 leaders from more than 100 countries, representing business, government, academia, civil society, media and the arts have descended on Durban for the WEF meeting, being held this year under the theme, Achieving Inclusive Growth through Responsive and Responsible Leadership.