Address by Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka at the Breakfast Meeting with Presidents of Japanese Universities to Discuss Opportunities for Co-operation Between Japanese and South African Universities, New Otani Hotel, Tokyo, Japan, 19 April 2006

Cabinet Ministers,
Deputy Ministers,
Ambassador Ngubane,
Professor Masuo Aizawa, President of the Tokyo Institute of Technology,
Professor Njabulo Ndebele, Vice Chancellor of the University of Cape Town,
Presidents of Japanese universities,
Distinguished guests
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is by no means a twist of fate that I am in Japan within a month from the time when the South African Government launched the Joint Initiative on Priority Skills Acquisition (JIPSA). Meeting with presidents of Japanese universities in Japan brings into my mind the words of our President Thabo Mbeki where he said, “I am confident that Japan has many lessons to offer many of us as we strive to create conditions that will ensure that all of humanity lives the life fit for humans.”

South Africa has to overcome the shortage of suitable skilled labour for us to realise an annual growth rate of at least 6% of the gross domestic product (GDP) between 2010 and 2014. JIPSA is South Africa’s concrete step to support the alignment of colleges and universities in their work of producing graduates that we can employ who meet the demand and needs of employers in the public and private sector. Even then JIPSA is only one of the interventions that seek to address the skills challenges in South Africa. Our schools, universities, technical colleges are our core institutions and skills generators.

We acknowledge that the single greatest impediment to South Africa’s shared economic growth and development, as well as private investment programmes, is our shortage of skills at all levels such as engineers, scientists, financial-personnel, project managers, information technology (IT) specialists and skilled technical employees such as artisans and information technology technicians and local government technical and other managers that are critically needed as the economy moves into higher gear and for service delivery.

One of the fundamental pillars of JIPSA is the contribution of the Department of Foreign Affairs and embassies in sourcing and attracting scarce skills from the international community to assist Government to train people in foreign academic institutions and for international placements where South Africa can train people through placements in foreign private companies and governments as well as government related institutions.

It was my wish to meet you today mainly to consider opportunities for co-operation between Japanese and South African universities in human resource and skills development sphere. I would like to share with you the priority areas that South Africa has identified for co-operation with Japanese universities:

* High-level engineering and planning skills for the ‘network industries’, transport, communications and energy all at the core of national infrastructure programme
* City, urban and regional planning and engineering skills desperately needed by local municipalities
* Artisan and technical skills, with priority attention to those needs for national infrastructure development
* Management and planning skills in education, health and in municipalities
* Teacher training for mathematics, science, information and communication technologies (ICT) and language competence in public education
* Specific skills needed by the sectors starting with tourism and business process outsourcing (BPO) and cross cutting skills needed by all sectors especially finance; project managers and managers in general
* Skills relevant to local economic development needs of municipalities, especially developmental economists.

Japan and South Africa have established the "Japan-South Africa Partnership Forum" co-chaired by Deputy Ministers of Foreign Affairs to strengthen co-operation in international affairs, trade and investment, economic co-operation, science and technology and cultural exchanges. I recommend the establishment of a similar forum for South African and Japanese universities to facilitate partnership in human resource and skills development in the context of JIPSA.

The forum for universities can be held annually in Japan and South Africa on a rotational basis to help achieve the following objectives:

* To increase flows of scientific knowledge and resources between South Africa and Japan through participation in joint education, research and training programmes
* To share the best practice in education, research and training through exchange of students, researchers and managers between South Africa and Japan
* To facilitate the participation of South Africa and Japan as significant players in the international science and technology arena.

Though heavily funded by the government, all South African public higher education institutions are autonomous, reporting to their own councils rather than government.

Two of the most important funding instruments available for the higher education sector are the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) and the National Research Foundation (NRF). Since its establishment in 1999, NRF remains the main government-supported form of funding for postgraduate research in South Africa.

I believe, in South Africa there is greater room for the private sector to support and influence higher education inputs and outputs.

NRF and the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) concluded a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in March 2005. As a result of this MoU, JSPS and NRF have already approved funding for four research collaboration projects involving the following Japanese institutions: Nagoya City University, Tohoku University, Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute and Chiba University together with the following South African institutions: University of the Witwatersrand, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, University of Stellenbosch and the CSIR. These institutions are collaborating in the areas of biotechnology, infectious diseases, ICTs and food sciences.

With effect from 1 March 2007, a simplified set of rules for the tax treatment of bursaries and scholarships provided by employers will be introduced in South Africa. To encourage businesses to increase investment in technology and innovation, the South African Government will increase the deduction for current research and development expenditure from 100% to 150% and a more favourable regime for depreciation of R&D capital expenditure is proposed.

We pride ourselves in the remarkable position that there is no other place in the world where you can study the southern skies as well as you can do in Southern Africa. President Thabo Mbeki officially opened the South African Large Telescope (SALT) in South Africa in November 2005.

SALT is the largest telescope in the Southern Hemisphere and represents a joint venture between seven countries, 11 organisations and 12 universities. South Africa has also submitted a bid to host the Square Kilometre Array Telescope (SKA). This has involved building a 1 per cent SKA demonstrator called the Karoo Array Telescope (KAT).

This process has enabled South African industry and academia to participate in the technology development process. I welcome the existing collaboration in the field of astronomy between Nagoya University in Japan and the South African Astronomical Observatory.

South Africa continues to lead in the fields of anthropology and palaeontology due to its unique heritage in fossil remains, from the earliest vertebrates to human origins. The Sterkfontein World Heritage Site in South Africa is the richest site in the world in terms of the number of hominid specimens. All these offer exciting opportunities for collaboration with our institutions of higher learning and students while at the same time offering unique tourism experiences.

World-class research in the field of palaeo-anthropology is currently conducted in South Africa at the University of the Witwatersrand, the Transvaal Museum, the National Museum in Bloemfontein and the University of Cape Town.

The world renowned South African scientist on human evolution and analysis of early hominid fossils, Professor Emeritus Philip Tobias of the University of the Witwatersrand presented lectures at the University of Tokyo, Kyoto University as well as at the Aichi World Expo 2005 in Japan on “the Significance of the Fossil Hominid Discoveries at the Cradle of Humanity World Heritage Site.”

There are limited places in the world where you can study infectious diseases as well as you can do in Southern Africa.

The Department of Veterinary Tropical Diseases of the University of Pretoria and the Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute of the South African Agricultural Research Council (ARC) for example have sequenced and annotated the complete genome of the bacterium Ehrilchia ruminatium, the causative agent of the deadly Heartwater Disease that has been destroying cattle, sheep and goat herds throughout Sub-Saharan Africa for centuries.

The work done in this area represents the first entire sequencing of any organism that has been done in Africa. We hope this breakthrough will help advance frontiers of veterinary medicine.

I also welcome the support of the NRF to the research collaboration between the University of Venda for Science and Technology and the School of Medicine, Tohoku University in Japan on their study of the antimicrobial activities of local medicinal plants against HIV and opportunistic bacterial as well as parasitic pathogens incriminated in HIV and AIDS cases.

The southern African sub-continent has the richest temperate flora in the world by far and is one of the most diverse regions of the world. Moreover, it has multiple hotspots where considerable concentrations of endemic plants are found.

Here at the southern tip of Africa, on less than 2.5% of the global land surface, about 10% of the plant species of the world occur. Indeed, with about 24 000 species recorded for South Africa and some of its neighbours, the country is home to the most diverse and species-rich temperate flora of the world.

The biodiversity found in Southern Africa offers a wide range of opportunities. A good example is South Africa’s CSIR patent that followed research and development of the appetite suppressant molecule in the Hoodia cactus, native to South Africa.

Clinical trials continue internationally on the product, which if successful will form the basis of a new obesity treatment. Commercial benefits are anticipated to arise from the potential commercial success of this technology.

South Africa is endowed with several mineral resources and Japan is the major importer in Asia of minerals from South Africa, particularly platinum and aluminium.

For many years the National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS) in Japan has been collaborating with the University of Limpopo, University of Witwatersrand, CSIR and Mintek on various areas of high temperature materials including the development of platinum group metal-based alloys for high temperature applications.

I wish to bring to your attention the words of Prime Minister Koizumi at the World Summit in South Africa where he said, “Japan, a country poor in natural resources, has grown to be what it is today on the strength of its human resources.”

That is what we have come to learn more about here and to seek concrete relations with each of your institutions. I am very happy that Professor Ndebele will sign an agreement that leads us to that direction. We seek an exchange with students, academics, public servants and our small, medium and micro-enterprises (SMMEs) and people especially Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) practitioners. We look forward to a successful stay in the next few days.

Japan has indeed many lessons to offer South Africa as we strive to create conditions that will ensure that we achieve an annual growth rate of at least 6% of the GDP.

I thank you.

Issued by: The Presidency
19 April 2006

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