By Ncebakazi Ntsokota
“Access to science information has become a non-negotiable in life, given the important role that science and technology play in people’s lives,” said Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, the new Minister of Science and Technology when she officially opened the 22nd SciFest Africa on Friday. She welcomed all members of the public – parents, educators, learners, researchers, scientists, business leaders, international guests and government officials – who gathered at the continent’s premier science festival.
“A lot of good practices have emerged over the 22 years of Scifest Africa’s existence,” said Kubayi-Ngubane. Scifest Africa has laid the ground work for similar provincial science festivals that they as the science and technology department envision for the other eight provinces, she said.
“It is science that assisted in tracing the sources of the Listeriosis outbreak in South Africa.” This breakthrough highlights the skills that South African scientists already have and the need to develop more scholars and research facilities in this field. “This is why the Department of Science and Technology is leading a campaign that will prioritise making science, technology and innovation appeal to young people, particularly the learners,” Kubayi-Ngubane said.
Initiatives such as Scifest Africa assist in creating platforms that will prove instrumental in helping the country realise the targets of the National Development Plan of increasing the number of school-leavers qualifying to study Bachelor degrees in mathematics and science to 450 000 by 2030. This is especially imperative when looking at Scifest Africa’s theme of Innovation 4.0 – an era, the Minister said, when “the people’s dependence on technology will increase and intensify to new levels”.
Kubayi-Ngubane cautioned, however, that evaluation of the “fourth industrial revolution” would be needed, especially in the South African context where there is a high unemployment rate. For her department this means that they would have to ensure skills training and development of workers that would be better suited at problem-solving skills especially in the workforce. This is what we will need to survive in the fourth industrial revolution.