In light of China’s growing stature in economic and science and technology matters, the Department of Science and Technology supports a number of joint research and exchange programmes between the two countries.

The science and technology cooperation agreement between South Africa and China was signed during the first session of the joint commission meeting on scientific and technological cooperation, held in Pretoria, in March 1999.

Visits and exchanges

A South African science and technology delegation visited China in August 2000 to finalise the first call for research and development proposals. The first call for project proposals was completed in March 2000, and the second in March 2001. Areas covered in the two calls included new materials, information and communication technology, laser technology and environmental management and technologies.

A South African task team on indigenous knowledge systems visited China in October 2000 to study the policy and strategic development frameworks of China, and determine best practices for developing indigenous knowledge programmes in South Africa.

Chinese biotechnology experts visited South Africa in August 2001 after which the Chinese visited South Africa in June 2002 to promote agricultural development in both countries.

The Chinese Deputy Minister for Science and Technology led a delegation to South Africa in March 2003, to hold the second joint commission meeting, where progress on bilateral relations and projects supported up to that time was reviewed.

The South African Department of Science and Technology went to China in September 2004 as part of the state visit to China, by the then Deputy President Zuma, to develop a framework for cooperation among experts from the two countries.

In 2004, China was the biggest exhibitor at the International Science, Innovation and Technology Exhibition in South Africa.

The former South African Minister of Science and Technology, Mr Mosibudi Mangena, visited China with a technical delegation in September 2005. A provincial delegation from Guangdong visited South Africa later that year on a fact-finding mission.

In March 2006, a delegation from the Beijing Academy of Science visited South Africa and participated in the annual Sasol Science Festival in Grahamstown. In April 2006, the Chinese Vice-Minister of Science and Technology visited South Africa to promote bilateral cooperation on science and technology. In 2006 China again participated in the International Science, Innovation and Technology Exhibition.

A small South African delegation visited China in November 2006 to elevate science and technology cooperation between the two countries ahead of the visit by President Mbeki.

In 2008, South Africa and China celebrated their 10-year anniversary of diplomatic relations. The South African Department of Science and Technology and the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology participated by holding seminars on palaeontology and on projects that were supported between 1998 and 2008. A book with a list of at least seventeen projects supported since the start of the relationship was published.

Collaboration between South African and Chinese institutions

The China Africa Engineering Association was established in October 1997 to promote the exchange of information and expertise between Chinese and African engineers. This partnership has grown considerably, with the Chinese placing an expert at the Tshwane University of Technology. The University has accepted a number of Chinese students in various science and technology programmes.

South Africa and China are both members of the International Standards Organisation. The South Africa Bureau of Standards collaborates with China on rotating machines, mechanical engineering, rubber and plastics, textiles, and electrical motors and cables.

The South African Council for Geosciences has a bilateral agreement with the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences, which includes exchanges in maps, and publications, as well as a bilateral cooperation on analyses of subparts per million of gold, platinum and palladium.

Mintek, South Africa?s national mineral research organisation and BachTech, of Australia, have sold gold bioleaching technology to Laizhou Gold Metallurgy in Shangdon Province. Mintek appointed Gold Yard International Exchange Service to promote its products in China.

The provincial Department of Agriculture in Limpopo signed a memorandum of understanding with China in December 2004.  That Department hosted a Chinese delegation in May 2005, and a South African delegation visited China in October 2005.  The partnership is aimed at sharing expertise in the use of technology to mitigate drought-related challenges that farmers in Limpopo face.

Science and Technology Forum

At the second joint commission meeting, which was held in Pretoria in 2003, it was agreed that the Science and Technology Forum would be established during the next meeting. The third joint commission meeting took place on 20 September 2005 and ten (10) research projects were supported.

The Forum took the form of a seminar. Experts from both countries were invited to make presentations on transport technology, nanotechnology and new materials, biotechnology (including agroprocessing and the Spark Programme, which is a Chinese government-driven programme aimed at promoting the development of the rural economy through science and technology), and information and communication technologies.  The presentations and the ensuing discussions aimed at identifying possible areas for further collaboration.

Current joint science and technology initiatives and projects between South African and Chinese researchers

Since the establishment of the Science and Technology Forum, the South African Department of Science and Technology and the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology have been funding joint research projects selected after open calls for proposals. Forty six joint research projects and initiatives were funded in the areas of biotechnology, advanced manufacturing, information and communication technology (ICT), palaeosciences, and health (traditional medicines); transport technology and mineral resources, among others. The Chinese have also been supportive of a pilot telemedicine project being run by the Medical Research Council.

Over the past few years South African and Chinese research teams have tapped into each other?s strategic strengths in order to maximise benefits for the two countries. China is keen to extend its support of projects supported through the South African National Research Foundation. Most of the research projects have contributed to human capital development through exchange programmes, the training of young scientists, and publications in science journals, as well as academic papers presented at science forums and conferences.

To strengthen and create longer term bilateral research and development cooperative relationships with the People?s Republic of China, the South African Department of Science and Technology is participating in the Shanghai World Expo this year. The Expo will be used to promote South African science, technology and innovation objectives such as marketing South Africa as a preferred destination for research, development and innovation.  It is also aimed at showcasing South Africa?s advancements, and achievements in science, technology and innovation (as contributors to building a modern economy).

Source: Department of Science and Technology

Issued by: Department of Science and Technology