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Minister Naledi Pandor welcomes the European Parliament’s call for support for radio astronomy partnerships with Africa

On learning of the European Parliament’s adoption on 15 March 2012 at its plenary session in Strasbourg, of written declaration 45 on “Science capacity building Africa: strengthening European-African radio astronomy partnerships”, the Minister of Science and Technology expressed her appreciation for this important statement by the elected representatives of the European Union.

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Minister Pandor commented that “the written declaration represents a commitment by the European Parliament to work with Africa to ensure that the full potential of science and technology is harnessed to contribute to sustainable growth and development on both continents. It is also due recognition of Africa’s own investments and outstanding scientific achievements in radio astronomy, as demonstrated by the exciting, early results of our KAT-7 telescope.”

Europe’s leading radio astronomers have applied for observation time with South Africa’s MeerKAT telescope and the plans for an African Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) Network have been met with much enthusiasm by the European radio astronomy community. The written declaration has initiated a process whereby the European Union (EU’s) research as well as development cooperation funding instruments could support these and other African-European radio astronomy partnerships.

Minister Pandor further highlighted that the “European Parliament’s call reciprocated in a most appropriate manner, the statement by our African Heads of State, who at the African Union Summit held in January 2012 in Addis Ababa, called for radio astronomy to be a priority focus area of the Joint Africa-EU Strategy’s Science, Information Society and Space Partnership.” The AU Assembly’s Decision 407 (XVIII) included this specific call.

The Minister has engaged consistently with the European Parliament and other European leaders over the past three years to promote a greater focus on research and innovation in African-European partnerships with a special focus on human capital development and capacity-building. In this regard, Minister Pandor emphasised that she had been encouraged that her interlocutors and representatives from European governments and industry, shared the perspective that “not only does Africa have compelling geographic advantages for the hosting of radio astronomy facilities, but that our continent is an attractive and valued partner for science and innovation.”

The written declaration was tabled by five senior Members of the European Parliament, including one of its Vice Presidents, Mr Miguel Angel Martinez Martinez. The Minister commented that “It would be amiss for me not to salute the leadership and initiative of the written declaration’s sponsors, Vice President Martinez Martinez, Mr Filip Kaczmarek, Ms Teresa Riera Madurell, Ms Fiona Hall and Ms Judith Sargentini. “

Minister Pandor also acknowledged the efforts of the Chair of the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with South Africa, Mr Michael Cashman, who in November 2011 invited her to address an extraordinary meeting of the European Parliament on science capacity-building in Africa. Minister Pandor will meet the Written Declaration’s sponsors and Mr Cashman in Brussels on 21-22 March 2012 to discuss actions to implement the Declaration’s recommendations.

The Minister will be in Brussels to address the European Parliament’s Symposium “Europe and ACP Together against Tuberculosis.” Minister Pandor had been invited to deliver a keynote address on “North- South and South- North collaborations to develop new vaccines for tuberculosis: the experience of South Africa.”

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