13 December 2022

Reflections from Africa’s first World Science Forum.

Last week was very insightful at the World Science Forum in Cape Town. It was the first time the Forum had been held in Africa, signalling the critical contributions of African science in finding solutions to global challenges. The theme of the Forum was #Science4SocialJustice. Each panel spoke about the role of science in advancing the protection of human rights, multilateralism, and ensuring that science can be communicated in a way that society can see its value.

We related quite closely to the Forum’s them as it spoke to our vision of using science communication for social justice where issue-driven research forms the foundation of our work by creating an interdisciplinary exchange between sciences and other research fields in finding solutions to the issues that impact our country and continent. Our Chair, Professor Mehita Iqani, stated that science communication should always find ways to make science easily understandable. Communicating science in a relatable way makes people from all walks of life feel included, thus aligning with our goal.

Higher Education, Science and Technology Minister, Dr Blade Nzimande, stated that the Forum being in Africa was due to the significant role of science diplomacy in placing its trust in South Africa to host a milestone event. The Forum’s theme illustrates that Africa and the world must confront its issues and create cutting-edge innovations to address them.

President Cyril Ramaphosa emphasised that the Forum’s Declaration should champion human rights and reduce inequalities, address climate change, recognise the role that African scientists play in finding solutions to global issues, deepen multilateral science relations in the face of divided geopolitics and transform scientific enterprise to reflect the kind of society we want.

International Relations and Cooperations Minister, Dr Naledi Pandor, mentioned that science communication & science diplomacy are vital links as when they are in dialogue with one other, the grassroots level can understand science and its meaning in their daily lives. She also stressed that scientists and researchers should always push for science and innovation policies to be included in multilateral agreements so that world leaders are mindful of scientific contributions to society.

Higher Education, Science and Technology Deputy Minister, Buti Manamela, in adopting the Forum’s Declaration, stated that the Forum had addressed the areas that President Ramaphosa had asked delegates to consider and that it aligned with the goal of science being used for social justice and change.

We hope that the Declaration becomes the framework from which science and innovation research draws its inspiration and to always remember that a social justice lens will help make our world fair and equitable.