15 December 2008
South Africa and Finland have signed a cooperation agreement to support biosciences projects within the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
Science and Technology Minister Mosibudi Mangena and Finnish Ambassador to South Africa Keikki Tuunanen signed the Finnish-Southern African partnership programme in biosciences (BioFISA) agreement in Pretoria last week.
According to the Department of Science and Technology, Finland will invest €3-million (about R41.2-million) and South Africa R9-million towards the programme, which will benefit the Southern African Network for Biosciences (SANBio).
SANBio was established in 2004 as part of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad) African Biosciences Initiative, which aims to build a regional biosciences research network, with its hub hosted by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in Pretoria.
Developing skills, capacity
Mangena explained that the African continent lagged behind in biosciences mainly because of financial constraints and expertise: “The problem is exacerbated by the lack of private sector support for research and take-up of the products and processes that result from research,” he said.
The Finnish government and other international institutions will assist the region through sharing knowledge and building capacity for global research.
As such, BioFISA’s main objective will be to develop bioscience capacity, and to bring innovative products to the market aimed at achieving sustainable regional development.
“The partnership is also aimed at harnessing indigenous knowledge for the sustainable use of natural resources and wealth generation, and strengthening intellectual property management as well as the commercialisation of research in this field,” the department said.
Strong Nordic partnerships
Earlier this year, Finland pledged €12-million in development aid towards enhancing the delivery and implementation of information communication technology (ICT) infrastructure in South Africa.
South Africa enjoys excellent relations with all the Nordic countries, namely Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, with the scope of development cooperation being broad, and benefiting both civil society and the government.