WEF summit in Durban can change lives in Africa: Pandor

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The 27th edition of the World Economic Forum on Africa, currently taking place in Durban, can produce outcomes which turn around the lives of ordinary South Africans and the continent at large, Science and Technology Minister Naledi said on Wednesday.

“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 told the African News Agency (ANA) at the Durban International Convention Centre.

“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’s] 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 summit through civic society.

“The many people we think are not here are represented by civil society organisations. There is a range of NGOs 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 towards 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. 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,” she said.

“We need to up our invest [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 percent of GDP in science and technology. I think any 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, this year themed “Achieving Inclusive Growth through Responsive and Responsible Leadership”.

– By ANA