Address by the Minister Naledi Pandor, at the “African constitutionalism” conference, University of Pretoria
2 Aug 2011Professor De Wet
It’s a pleasure to be with you this evening at this very important conference on constitutionalism and democracy in Africa.
Constitution making holds an important place in the democratic history of South Africa. It was a process we set about with great seriousness, one that was guided by a set of 34 principles that established the framework within which our Constitutional Assembly would draft our new constitution. It was also shaped by the people of South Africa, who expressed robust and very progressive views during the public consultation process.
Given the important role that universities play in shaping policy and informed public discourse, it is useful to consider the role universities could play in supporting and sustaining democracy in Africa.
First, it’s vital to state that we need to invest in higher education in order to create institutions all over Africa that have the ability to make a full intellectual contribution to a democratic Africa. Our universities should be part of a robust African partnership for democracy.
Higher education has begun to reflect an exciting renewal in Africa. Enrolments in sub-Saharan African universities tripled between 1991 and 2010. Unfortunately, funding did not increase in response to this growth and this led to a decline in quality and success in many universities.
We also see a renewal in the growing number of African students looking for higher education elsewhere in Africa and abroad. Studies show that the international mobility of students has increased significantly over the past 10 to 15 years.
Traditionally, the majority of mobile students came from the less developed countries and four in every five studied in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries. Other directions of student flow are now emerging, such as within the commonwealth countries and South-South or North-South flows.
Africa’s outbound migration of students and professionals has some benefits in creating networks favourable to Africa, and sharing knowledge about Africa with others around the world.
Second, we have institutions with different research strengths and discipline niche areas. We should make better use of this differentiation.
Not all universities can be research intensive. For instance, Africa’s sub-regions could agree that a selected group of institutions should be developed as research intensive. This does not mean the relegation of other higher education institutions to a second-class status.
It’s worth remembering that in the US and the UK less than 5% of universities are research-intensive, but that does not mean that all the other universities do not undertake research. They have all worked out what is good for them, what they can achieve, and they have focused clearly on those niche areas.
If we are to build, selectively and systematically, research-intensive universities on the continent, we must look towards new and innovative partnerships to support our vision.
Networks of researchers transcending national and regional boundaries are a growing characteristic of knowledge creation in the twenty-first century. Furthermore, countries with an internal capacity to research local issues are better positioned to participate in global networks.
Africa also needs large numbers of high quality undergraduate institutions focussed on meeting the professional and other skills needs of developing communities and nations.
They, too, like the research-intensive universities, must be appropriately funded.
Access to fast broadband is critical. It is the key to strengthening teaching and learning and enabling collaborative partnerships in the region and beyond.
Third, collaboration and partnerships between north and south can benefit Africa.
In today’s globalised and interconnected world, we encourage brain circulation through cultural and material incentives. We need to support Africa to become an attractive location to pursue high quality research.
Four in ten African scientists live and work in OECD countries, according to the Network of African Science Academies (NASAC), and this has crippled research development in Africa.
Yet today Africa is growing faster than ever before and faster than most other regions in the world.
There is growing acceptance in Africa that it cannot and should not be left behind in the fastest developing areas of world trade - in technology and knowledge products. Many African countries are putting science high up in their development priorities and investment in science and technology is increasing rapidly.
I see African collaboration and partnership specifically in our bid to host SKA.
The MeerKAT and the SKA have been the focus of what is probably the largest astronomy focused human capital development project in the world.
The bid for the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) Radio Astronomy Telescope is an African bid, and not a South African bid. One in four of the SKA Human Capital Development (HCD) grants since 2005 have gone to researchers from the Continent.
Our foreign policy gives pride of place to Africa.
The principles of our foreign policy in a nutshell are: the promotion of human rights, respect for international law, the promotion of peace through internationally agreed and non-violent mechanisms, the championing of African issues, and economic development based on cooperation in an interdependent world.
As you will know, South Africa has joined the Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC) countries – they have become BRICSA. Goldman Sachs first punted the idea of the BRIC some years back. It was suggested that over the next 50 years, Brazil, Russia, India and China - the BRIC economies - could become a much larger force in the world economy.
The last decade saw the BRIC countries make their mark on the global economic landscape. Over the past 10 years they have contributed over a third of world GDP growth and grown from one-sixth of the world economy to almost a quarter (in PPP terms).
Let me repeat some facts:
- The African economy is predicted to grow at an average rate of more than seven percent over the next two decades – faster than China.
- 100 African companies have revenues greater than $1billion.
- The combined GDP of the largest 11 African countries will be bigger than Russia’s or China’s by 2050.
- Africa has 60% of the world’s total amount of uncultivated arable land.
- The rate of return on foreign investment in Africa is greater than in any other developing region.
- Six of the 10 most rapidly expanding economies in the world over the past decade were in sub-Saharan Africa: Angola, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Mozambique and Chad, countries nearly destroyed by war, famine and corruption.
The key reasons behind this growth surge in sub-Saharan Africa are government action to end armed conflicts, improved macroeconomic conditions, and microeconomic reforms to create a better business climate.
In closing, as South Africa finds it way into the global arena, South Africa needs every bit of effort and support to ensure continued progress towards equality and social justice.
Source: Department of Science and Technology
Issued by: Department of Science and Technology
2 Aug 2011
[ Top ]