Honourable Minister Nzimande,

Dear Commissioner Agbor,

Distinguished guests,

It is a real pleasure for me to open the South Africa Science Forum.

Over the years, this Forum has been playing a crucial role on the African continent, and globally, to connect scientists and innovators.

This is more necessary than ever as the world is facing an unprecedented challenge.

South Africa is a driving force in Science & Innovation.

We have a long-standing cooperation.

I am glad to see that this year the Science Forum displays our joint work through the Joint Research Centre, as well as the African-European Innovation Partnership.

Let me congratulate you on building the world’s largest radio-telescope, the Square Kilometre Array.

As well as thank you for the joint organisation of the All-Atlantic Research Forum that took place a few days ago.

Your current chairmanship of the African Union has reinforced our joint Partnership.

President Ramaphosa, indeed, participated actively at Coronavirus global response pledging conference.

For the first time ever, in July we organised the first Research & Innovation Ministerial meeting between the European Union and the African Union.

We agreed at this occasion to focus our future cooperation on four main pillars:

    • public health,
    • green transition,
    • innovation and technologies, and
    • capacities for science, including higher education.

Our ambition should be to have a strong focus on Research & Innovation for the next European – African Union Summit next year.

The global challenges we are all facing require global solutions.

We must therefore encourage and support international research cooperation.

This is why next year we will present a renewed Global Approach to Research and Innovation, education and youth.

The relationship with the African continent and its Member States is a priority for us.

Let me reassure you that our future Horizon Europe programme will continue to give importance to international cooperation.

Within this programme we are currently working on an ambitious transversal ‘Africa Initiative’ that will offer more opportunities for cooperation.

We have also other important instruments at our disposal:

First, our Policy Dialogue on education and training with South Africa, held in January, identified Digital education and transformation, as well as Entrepreneurship in education, among possible topics of cooperation.

Second, the future Erasmus+ programme, where South Africa excels as one of our leading partners, will continue to support academic exchanges and capacity building in higher education. 

Third, our Digital Education Action Plan for developing digital capacity and competences will foster best practice exchanges with Africa.

Finally, the Marie-Słodowska-Curie Actions, our flagship programme for researchers’ mobility and training will continue to foster excellent research and a highly skilled research-based human capital.

I invite you to make maximum use of these opportunities.

I also count on you to think of innovative ways for deepening our cooperation.

2021 should be a year full of European-African cooperation in Research, Innovation and Education.

I wish you a successful event and hope to be there in person next year!