NATIONAL ASSEMBLY TUESDAY, 18 MAY MINI PLENARIES (VIRTUAL) 16:30 – 18:15 Vote 35: Science and Innovation

Hon. MN Nxumalo

 

Honourable Chairperson,

This Budget Vote comes at a time when the world is still reeling from the devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Never before has science been so important to humanity. The pandemic has shown us that we need innovative solutions to address health and other challenges, be it in the education sector, in the manufacturing sector or any other sector.

The pandemic also brought to us the reality that funding for science and innovation requires a long-term commitment to developing the capacity to address national emergencies and global challenges. For this reason, we cannot ignore the importance of giving this Department a strong budget. We cannot deliver on the promises of the Fourth Industrial Revolution if we do not fund science and innovation.

For us to fully benefit from the Fourth Industrial Revolution, we must have a robust funding framework for this Department. If we do not do that, we will continue to buy foreign technology, which we could have produced locally, and we will continue to rely on other states to help us solve problems in South Africa. An example in this regard is the issue of the Covid-19 vaccine. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, other states have produced vaccines due to the strength of their funding for science and innovation. We could have done the same – if only sufficient funding had been provided for this Department in the long-term, and if we had put an aggressive plan for science and innovation in place at the dawn of our democracy.

The IFP welcomes the Department’s socio-economic innovation partnerships, which will see this country identifying areas that need sustainable development capabilities in science, technology and innovation. In this regard, we call for more funding for energy and bio-innovation, as these are some of the most pressing areas that require attention.

The IFP welcomes the commitment to fund several instruments in support of increased localisation, competitiveness and research development for our industries.

The foremost commitment in this regard should be to ensure that not only do we fund undergraduate students to undertake science and technology courses but also that we develop knowledge at postgraduate level. This will create a strong understanding of scientific concepts, which could form the basis for practical solutions to many problems facing this country.

Funding will develop our capacity in science and enable us to attract and retain young, energetic minds who have a commitment to innovation.

South Africa will benefit if such funding encourages students to undertake postgraduate research and to remain in research. It should also be channelled towards courses and programmes that address the immediate needs of our communities, such as energy, water, security, food, transport and medicines, among others.

The IFP accepts this Budget.

Thank you.

Hon. Nxumalo, MP