“South Africa is now at the forefront of innovative programmes to provide decent service delivery to impoverished communities,” said Pandor at the seventh International Symposium on Macro and Supramolecular Architectures and Materials gala dinner in Johannesburg on Tuesday night.
“The international symposium brings together scientists and engineers from all over the world to reflect on the current status of and developments in advanced materials, with a focus on practical applications,” spokesman Lunga Ngqengelele said in a statement.
During the symposium, Pandor made reference to various innovative systems that have been developed across the country.
These included the sanitation project in Cofimvaba in the Eastern Cape, which had attracted interest from international partners such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
“The project aims to solve sanitation problems in this rural area by using alternative technologies,” said Ngqengelele.
The “wireless mesh network”, which brings internet connectivity to rural areas in Limpopo, Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape, was also under way.
“This narrows the digital divide and enables micro-enterprise development in poverty-stricken areas,” he said.
Pandor said that since the dawn of democracy, government had worked to connect “knowledge generation to economic development,” and that it aimed to shift the country from “a resources economy to value-adding and knowledge-intensive activities”.
“Over the past 20 years we have built a system that connects local government, big business, start-up entrepreneurs, venture capital, research organisations, higher education institutions, further education and training colleges, and Sector Education and Training Authorities.”
Pandor added that government had placed human capital development high on its economic growth agenda and had encouraged more students, especially black females, to venture into science, engineering and research orientated careers.