A memorandum of understanding on science and technology co-operation was signed by South Africa’s Minister of Science and Technology, Derek Hanekom, and Ewon Ebin, the Malaysian Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation (STI), the Department of Science and Technology said in a statement last week.
“The agreement is aimed at enhancing socioeconomic development in both countries through STI co-operation, and will provide a tremendous opportunity for both countries to share knowledge and experience,” the department said.
Hanekom said the agreement would strengthen human capital development through the initiation of joint research projects and programmes between role players in the science and technology communities of both countries.
Ebin described the agreement as “a strategic first step in fostering a smart partnership between our countries, reinforcing our commitment to promoting and developing co-operation in the field of science and technology”.
“It has created a win-win situation for Malaysia and South Africa in terms of human resource development, technological and research development, economic growth and advancing ICT,” he said.
Malaysia has been successful in transforming its agriculture-based economy since its independence in 1957, the department said. Over the years, the emphasis has shifted from rubber, tin and palm oil, to biotechnology, nanotechnology, pharmaceuticals and other high-tech industries. It has given priority to information and communication technologies.
South Africa is on a similar trajectory, as it moves from a resource-based to a knowledge-based economy, the department said. “Like South Africa, Malaysia is one of the most bio-diverse countries in the world. It is a leader in bio-prospecting, and has had some success in commercialising local research results, so there are opportunities for knowledge sharing in this area.”
Both South Africa and Malaysia identified specific areas of co-operation for discussion at the first South Africa-Malaysian joint committee meeting in Pretoria last week.
The meeting was aimed at developing an action plan for bilateral co-operation over the next two years. Areas of focus include Antarctic research, ICT, energy security, innovation for inclusive development, sustainable human settlements, innovation and commercialisation, astronomy and the bioeconomy.
The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research’s Meraka Institute, a unit focused on ICT, and its Malaysian counterpart, MIMOS, also signed a memorandum of agreement last week.
The co-operation between the two institutes will include exchange programmes related to technology development and commercialisation.