GERMAN Education and Research Minister Annette Schavan said yesterday that her country would be joining the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Organisation.
She was speaking at the launch of the South African-German year of science 2012-13, entitled Enhancing Science Partnerships for Innovation and Sustainable Development.
Although Prof Schavan did not explicitly endorse SA’s bid to host the world’s largest radio telescope, she said: "It shows that we are convinced this country and this continent will be a good site to establish research infrastructure … I’m taking this opportunity to wish SA the best on the SKA decision."
SA and Australia are bidding to host the R23bn SKA. Both Prof Schavan and Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor emphasised that the site decision should be made as soon as possible, with Ms Pandor calling for a June decision at the latest. A decision was expected on April 4, but the SKA Founding Board instead established a working group to explore a more "inclusive approach" to the SKA.
Both ministers said the site decision should be based on the best site for the science.
This show of unity is likely to play into the fears of Australian Innovation, Industry, Science and Research Minister Chris Evans, who reportedly said earlier this year that "the thing that works against us the most is the sympathy for doing more in Africa — the European view that says we ought to be doing more development in Africa".
However, SA and Germany had been collaborating since 1996, Ms Pandor said yesterday. More than 400 projects had been undertaken since they signed their first bilateral agreement, with about R80m supporting scientists and researchers.
Some of the areas of collaboration included climate change, the bioeconomy, human capital development and astronomy, as well as the social sciences and humanities.
Prof Schavan said: "SA is a highly interesting partner for Germany … an anchor in our relations to Africa as a whole." There were 600 German companies active in SA, she said.
"As SA," Ms Pandor said, "we believe in collaboration across countries: Africa, the Southern African Development Community, the European Union. Germany is an important partner."
Prof Schavan underscored the importance of science in the modern world, for developed and developing countries. "Science is really the basis for viabilities of modern societies and that always means sustainability in today’s context — economic prosperity, but at the same time social and cultural (prosperity)."
She said that, despite the many differences between the countries, there were strong cultural parallels because both were trying to rebuild their identity: SA after apartheid and Germany after reunification. The humanities were important as they "help us understand man, in a world that is undergoing change".
Ms Pandor said this was one area in which SA could teach Germany because of its "unity in diversity".
Source: Business Day
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