Africa needs more science, tech investment, says Pandor

Naledi Pandor. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24, file)
Naledi Pandor. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24, file)

Johannesburg - The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has illustrated the need for investment in scientific research on the continent, Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor said on Monday.

Speaking at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research's (Cern) 60th anniversary celebration at the UN, New York, Pandor said science had been a significant contributor to social development in many parts of the world.

She cited breakthroughs in eradicating diseases such as polio and smallpox as a result of drug and vaccine development.

"It is imperative for Africa's scientists to work in Africa if they are to support development on the continent, if they are to play a role in smooth technology transfer and if they are to drive innovation," she said, according to a statement.

The Ebola virus has killed 4 000 people in West Africa since the start of the year.

Crucial discovery

Sub-Saharan Africa contributes about 2.3% of the world's gross domestic product, but was responsible for only 0.4% of global expenditure on research and development. With 13.4% of the world's population, it was home to only 1.1% of the world's scientific researchers.

Pandor said this meant it was logical to propose investment in science and innovation that could offer Africa new opportunities for development.

She said she was pleased by the scientific progress made by Cern.

"We are pleased that several African countries have scientists who have participated in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) research initiatives and we congratulate the leadership of Cern, who have been true world scientists seeking to attract scholars from the global community to the LHC."

The LHC is the world's largest and most powerful particle collider. It lies in a tunnel 27km in circumference, beneath the Franco-Swiss border near Geneva, Switzerland. It allows scientists to smash protons together at high speeds.

One of the LHC's crucial discoveries was the elementary particle, the Higgs Boson - nicknamed "the God particle". The particle provides mass to all matter and without it there would be no galaxies, planets, or life.

Other speakers at the Cern celebrations included UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, Nobel Physics Prize winner and former director general of Cern Prof Carlo Rubbia, and Nobel Peace Prize winner and former UN secretary general Kofi Annan.

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