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September : Southern Africa: Minister Naledi Pandor - Underpinning Sustainable Tree Plantations in Southern Africa's Research Symposium

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21 September, 2015

Southern Africa: Minister Naledi Pandor - Underpinning Sustainable Tree Plantations in Southern Africa's Research Symposium

Address by Naledi Pandor MP, Minister of Science and Technology, at the 'Underpinning Sustainable Tree Plantations in Southern Africa' research symposium, International Convention Centre, Durban

Prof Colin Dyer: Director: Institute for Commercial Forestry Research (ICFR),

Ms Sally Upfold, Institute for Commercial Forestry Research (ICFR) co-host of this symposium,

Prof Mike Wingfield: current president of the International Union of Forest Research Organisations (IUFRO); co-host of this symposium,

Mr Trevor Abraham, Secretary General of the 14th World Forestry Congress 2015,

Ms Tiina Vähänen: associate secretary general for the World Forestry Congress, of the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO).

Mr Michael Peter: Executive Director: Forestry South Africa (FSA),

Local and international researchers' industry and government officials.

South Africa is fortunate to boast excellence in a large number of cutting-edge science and technology domains. I would like to outline for you the five priority areas -or "grand challenges" -identified in South Africa's Ten Year Innovation Plan -adopted in 2008.

The grand challenges relate to, one, our investment in bio-sciences for public health and food security; two, better understanding and mitigating the impact of global change; three, achieving energy security; four, optimally exploiting the potential of space science and technology; and five, using science and technology to fight poverty and exclusion in our society in transition.

With regard to the bio-sciences, South African scientists have for years been at the forefront of the fight against infectious diseases such as HIV-Aids, malaria and tuberculosis. Internationally acclaimed work underway includes the development of a malaria drug, an HIV-Aids vaccine and a microbicide gel to prevent HIV-Aids infection. Our goal is now to ensure our scientific excellence will translate into the development of South Africa's own pharmaceutical industry, which will create jobs.

In the area of global change, South African scientists are making critical contributions to global work, for example, by the International Panel on Climate Change. Whether it is in the field of protecting biodiversity, or the development of more efficient management systems for natural resources, such as water, South African scientists count among the best.

Our collective global ability to understand what is happening to our planet would be much the poorer without South Africa's contributions to many international observation systems. We are also well placed to optimally leverage the opportunities of the so-called green economy, with exciting plans for example in the field of waste research and innovation.