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Horizons | CNRS Networks cnrs I international w 32 magazine South Africa The Rainbow Nation banks on scientific research to boost its attractiveness, meet economic challenges, and bridge the social divide. Shaping a Bright Future by Valerie Herczeg In the foothills of the Magaliesberg mountain range, home to the “Cradle of Humankind” world heritage site, the Pretoria skyline towers above the old façades of bygone colonial times. Standing guard between past and future, South Africa’s administrative capital is both a historical bastion and a witness to the country’s vitality in the post-Apartheid era. In keeping with the national policy of building a “knowledge-based” economy, a host of academic institutions are dotted around the metropolis, earning it the label of “IQ City.” This quest for knowledge gives pride of place to science. The National Research and Development Strategy, launched in 2002 by the government’s Department of Science and Technology (DST), and its Ten-Year Innovation Plan (2008-2018), are paying dividends. Designed to bridge the gap between research and societal benefits, these initiatives encourage researchers, and especially young scientists, to lend their expertise to meeting South Africa’s socio-economic challenges. Br ain -Gain Strategy Pretoria’s newly-established South African Young Academy of Science (SAYAS) testifies to this strategy. Its high-f lying young members—a 20-strong multidisciplinary team set up to influence political decisions on national and international issues—promote scientific excellence and exchanges between researchers, both in South Africa and abroad. In line with this policy, the South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChi) seeks to strengthen research and innovation in public universities through the training of a new generation of scientists. Besides candidates aged under 40, SARChi targets established researchers and those from abroad willing to spend at least 50% of their time in South Africa. Attractive packages are designed to entice foreign minds and coax expatriates to come home. The country thus hopes that a “brain gain” will offset the “brain drain” that began before Apartheid ended in 1994, as a result of the “white flight” caused by political turmoil, insecurity, and poor economic performance. Today, South Africa is home to around 40,000 researchers, more than 68% of whom are in the public sector, out of a Botswana zimbabwe Pretoria Johannesburg namibia Mozambique swaziland lesotho population of 50 million. A budget of $2.29 billion was allocated to R&D in 2008-09, and $480 million was earmarked for the DST in 2011-12. This reflects the government’s will to increase support for public research so as to strengthen the country’s position as an emerging world-class research destination and partner. Global Reach The DST set out to nurture scientific cooperation on the international scene. Particular emphasis was placed on European collaborations. Involved in 165 projects under the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), South Africa is the fourth-largest non-EU partner behind the US, Russia, and China— ahead of India and Brazil. Among the countries involved in cooperative 02 01 © O. Vern eau/IRD © E.Comba ud/foto lia


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