SA officials lobbying for SKA

2012-04-02 08:30
A model of the revised MeerKAT dish which is closely aligned to the SKA requirements is seen at the project office in Cape Town. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

A model of the revised MeerKAT dish which is closely aligned to the SKA requirements is seen at the project office in Cape Town. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Cape Town - The South African Square Kilometre Array (SKA) bid team has lobbied internationally to try and ensure that the country is chosen to host the massive science project.

"On the international lobbying, we've had visits by both the minister and the deputy minister to a range of countries and the minster has already talked about the support we have received from the African Union," science and technology director general Dr Phil Mjwara told News24.

Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor is determined to have SA selected as a host country for the SKA which will see over 3 000 linked radio telescopes being built in the Northern Cape province.

The board of the SKA organisation will meet on April 4 to discuss recommendations from an independent review panel, but it is unlikely that a decision will be made.

Pandor has been lobbying countries to throw their weight behind the South African bid.


"The minister recently visited Italy and the EU, also visited the UK and last year we also visited the United States of America," Mjwara said.

China has emerged as a key player in the SKA process and both South African and Australian delegations have been to the country to ask for support.

Australia may have difficulty in persuading the Chinese to support their bid after the recent controversy of technology giant Huawei Technologies Co Ltd being banned from bidding on the Australia national broadband network over cyber security fears.

"It's not unusual for countries - and China cannot be exempt from these considerations - to take national security concerns into account when it looks at certain types of foreign investment," Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr said.

Pandor said that the team has been involved in negotiations with their Chinese counterparts on the SKA.

"We've had contact with colleagues in China and fairly extensive discussions. China is one of the member countries in the partnership and therefore they will have a vote when the countries meet to decide on the issues.

"So China is an important player and we hope that President Zuma in his one on one at Brics [Brazil, Russia, India, China and SA] in India ensured that that he read the note that I posted to him which should be part of his discussions with [Chinese President] Mr Hu Jintao," Pandor said amid laughter from journalists.

African support

The European Parliament recently adopted declaration 45 which aims to develop and strengthen radio astronomy partnerships between Europe and Africa.

The South African bid has also been supported by the AU and eight African countries have joined the partnership of the SKA.

"Radio astronomy has been adopted as one of the focus areas of the Brics science and technology sector in September last year.

"The deputy minister as well has been visiting a number of countries - he met the chairman of Tata in a roundtable discussion last year and of course, there were side meetings on the Carnegie meeting that we held here last year," said Mjwara.

- Follow Duncan on Twitter

Read more on:    naledi pandor  |  astronomy  |  ska

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