Africa’s first World Science Forum

By Phenyo Mathapo

South Africa made history by hosting the first-ever World Science Forum in Africa from 6-9 December, 2022 at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC). 

The theme of the Forum was, ‘Science for Social Justice’, and on the day of the opening, researchers and scientists from around the globe gathered in the exhibition hall to showcase their work and its relation to the theme. African Science Stars Mag had a stall situated near organisations such as AFAS, SAAO, OAD and SKAO, thus creating an ‘astronomy corner’.

There were talks held throughout the Forum, such as the ‘Science Freedom and the RRING Community Working with UNESCO on the Recommendation on Science and Scientific Researches (NRF-SAASTA)’, which discussed scientific freedom of research by viewing case studies from South Africa, Serbia, Ireland and France. As well as the ‘Advancing Africa’s Astronomy Agenda’ talk, where the speakers discussed how astronomy could assist the continent of Africa, followed by an insightful Q and A session. During this discussion, someone stated: “… So that we don’t do to astronomy what we did to mining.”

President Cyril Ramaphosa was at the exhibition hall where he took a tour of the various stalls and engaged with a few scientists, researchers and media present on the first day. The opening ceremony was held later that evening, where he gave a keynote address and proposed 5 questions to the audience about the future usage of science to better the conditions of humanity regarding poverty, injustices and inequalities. Other speakers included the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Bonginkosi Nzimande and the Assistant Director-General of Natural Science from UNESCO, Shamila Nair-Bedouelle among others. Her Royal Highness Princess Sumaya bint El Hassan of Jordan was present and was a speaker at several of the talks on the second day.

The Forum also provided some entertainment, such as the 360-degree camera where one could record a video of themselves on a stage podium and receive it via message and a science experiment involving colourful tubes used to make music. There were also stalls which gave individuals a virtual reality experience, and all the stalls gave out free goodies such as USBs, pens, notebooks, tote bags and bottles. Each day ended with a networking event in the form of an opening reception, a delegates’ party and a gala dinner.

On the last day, the exhibition hall was open to the public and welcomed curious high school students interested in the sciences. They took a tour around the exhibition hall and picked up a few copies of African Science Stars magazine. 

Tertiary institutions such as UNISA, UCT, WITS, UP, UWC and UKZN were exhibiting. Various stalls also promoted funding and opportunities to study abroad, funding for innovative projects and bursaries.

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