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Andris Piebalgs Development Commissioner Innovation for Poverty Alleviation Side event to the 5th Bilateral Annual EU-South Africa Summit on the role of science and technology as tool for poverty alleviation /Brussels 18 September 2012

European Commission - SPEECH/12/618   18/09/2012

Other available languages: none

European Commission

Andris Piebalgs

Development Commissioner

Innovation for Poverty Alleviation

Side event to the 5th Bilateral Annual EU-South Africa Summit

on the role of science and technology as tool for poverty alleviation /Brussels

18 September 2012

Enter President Zuma,

Minister Pandor,

Mr Cashman,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am delighted to be speaking to you at this event, in the margins of the 5th bilateral Summit between South Africa and the European Union. Side events on our cooperation in science and technology have been organised every year since the first Summit in Bordeaux in 2008. I would like to thank the South African Department of Science and Technology for its pro-active role in organising them.

I am glad to be part of what is a young but welcome tradition which I hope will continue.

Innovation in the EU and SA policies

In Europe we believe that innovation is an effective means towards sustainable and inclusive development. The Europe 2020 Strategy advocates "smart, sustainable and inclusive growth". We believe that innovation will strengthen European economies and drive job creation, critical in these economically challenging times. Notably, the strategy specifies the target of raising research and development expenditure to 3% of the EU GDP by 2020.

South Africa is also pushing ahead with its transformation towards a knowledge-based economy which is vital for growth and development. Your National Development Plan 2030, President Zuma, recently presented to the South African Parliament, makes this point clearly.

EU-SA 'Innovation for Poverty Alleviation' Programme

This shared conviction as to the importance of knowledge and innovation in development is something that we in the European Union greatly value.

It was also the driving force behind the Innovation for Poverty Alleviation Programme we developed with you in 2008.

We have committed €30 million to this partnership with the South African Department of Science and Technology for a five-year period, with the aim of supporting poverty alleviation initiatives.

It is the first EU development cooperation programme of its kind. It is the first programme designed to demonstrate and facilitate complementarities between research and development instruments.

I must also underline that the experimental nature of our joint Innovation for Poverty Alleviation Programme fits well with our overall "value added" approach to development cooperation with South Africa.

The approach allows the South African Government to implement innovative, creative and ground-breaking activities to address systemic challenges.

Untested initiatives, however pioneering they may be, sometimes prove to be offering too much too soon. Not so with the Innovation for Poverty Alleviation Programme, whose successes we are celebrating here today.

I am particularly happy for the people in South Africa who have directly benefited from the programme. For example, it is heart-warming to know that our collaboration to date has provided Internet connectivity to 185 schools and 60 thousand people in rural areas have gained access to a wireless mesh network.

In the process it has contributed to the establishment of small businesses that operate the installed wireless mesh facilities. These emerging entrepreneurs have taken great pride in their newly established enterprises and actively promote them.

Some of the projects under the programme are experimental in nature.

For instance, there is a project that investigates the viability of "earthworm" farming in order to reduce dependence on chemical fertilisers. It seeks to develop vermiculture technology for application in medium- to large-scale crop-based agricultural projects.

Other projects apply innovative thinking to South Africa's rich biodiversity, seeking areas in which the country's natural heritage might be used to address some of its development challenges.

Food security and malnutrition are addressed via a project that focuses on the cultivation of indigenous leafy vegetables. Meanwhile, another project is trying to develop the production of African ginger for commercial purposes – African ginger being one of the most popular indigenous medicinal plants in southern Africa.

The range and scope of these projects is impressive and I am delighted that many have been delivering positive results.

Indeed, given the programme's success it is little wonder that similar programmes are being considered in other countries. Key lessons from our joint programme with South Africa are guiding our work in this regard.

For example, we have learnt that to cross what has been described as the "innovation chasm", a strong engagement with the private sector is vital. There is also the potential for extending our Innovation for Poverty Alleviation partnership to trilateral cooperation with a view to implementing similar programmes in other African countries.

Looking ahead

South Africa is one of only ten countries worldwide with which the EU has a strategic partnership.

This surely shows that we lay great store by our cooperation with South Africa in all spheres and what that cooperation can do for us as partners and for Africa more widely.

Moreover, within the partnership science and technology are a very important area of our bilateral cooperation. This year we are celebrating the 15-year anniversary of our bilateral Science and Technology Agreement. It is worth recalling that this agreement predates the comprehensive legal basis for South Africa-EU relations, the 1999 or Trade, Development and Cooperation Agreement.

The agreement has been worth its weight in gold. Fifteen years on, our dialogue on science and technology issues is as vibrant as ever. It takes places both at high and technical levels, in multilateral and bilateral forums, including side events to our bilateral annual summits just like this event today.

Furthermore, under the European Union's 7th Framework Programme, or FP7, South Africa ranks 5th among all third-country participants, just behind Russia, the US, China and India. South Africa participates in 184 initiatives under 150 signed grant agreements, with a total EU contribution of about €30 million dedicated to contributors from South Africa.

All in all, then, we have a solid legal and technical basis for expanding our cooperation further. And that is exactly what we intend to do on a number of fronts. Let me mention just four here.

First, new opportunities will open up under the successor to the FP7. Horizon 2020 will run from 2014 to 2020 with an 80 billion euro budget.

Second, we are in the process of developing a new Partnership Instrument to run from 2014, through which we intend to step up cooperation with our strategic partners. In the case of South Africa, the Partnership Instrument could provide scope for new bilateral science, technology and innovation-related initiatives.

Third, on a broader level, our blueprint for a higher impact development policy – our "Agenda for Change" - advocates inclusive and sustainable growth. In view of the global climate change challenge, it implies low-carbon development and green economy, both of which require innovation. Therefore, we will continue working with countries like South Africa in support of creativity and innovation.

And fourth, we should also strengthen our engagement under the 8th Africa-EU Partnership on Science, Information, Society and Space, seeking to boost our joint initiatives to support it.

South Africa, for example, already contributes to and participates in the European Commission's ACP Science and Technology Programme, which focuses on capacity-building to support research, development and innovation in the ACP region. The launch of a second phase of the programme is expected in the coming months and South Africa has already confirmed its continued contribution to the programme. The focus of the second phase will be on innovation in agriculture and energy sectors.

So South Africa is not only a key partner for the EU in its own right; it also has a huge, wider role to play in EU-Africa relations.

In this regard I would like to congratulate South Africa and its African partners on their successful bid to host the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) telescope.

The project will give additional impetus to African and European research communities to step up collaboration. Perhaps most pleasing of all is that the project is expected to have positive socio-economic spin-offs, including job creation.

Finally, we should explore possibilities for collaboration in technology and innovation within the framework of Sustainable Energy for All Initiative launched by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon earlier this year.

Mr Ban's high-level group for the initiative could be a good starting point. Brian Dames, Chief Executive Officer of South Africa's public electricity utility Eskom, and I are both members of this group.

The Africa-EU Energy Partnership provides a further basis for collaboration in this regard. The partnership's first forum was held in Cape Town in May this year; among other things it discussed the application of technology and innovation for energy access in Africa. The European Union stands fully behind the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative. Moreover, we have made sustainable energy a priority in EU development cooperation.

Mr President, Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The European Commission greatly values the strategic cooperation it already enjoys with South Africa. We can now look forward to expanding that cooperation still further.

On the side of development cooperation, we will continue with the "value added" experimental approach and consider joint initiatives which are more strategic in nature. As South Africa emerges as a donor in its own right, we will also consider possibilities for trilateral cooperation, especially on the African continent.

And innovation will remain a key pillar in our cooperation, as we both believe in its powers to facilitate development and growth.

Only in a spirit of cooperation can we effectively square up to developmental challenges and build a better world for our people today and for future generations. That spirit is very much present in our partnership today. I know that we will all work to make that partnership even stronger in the future.

Thank you.


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