Minister of Higher Education Science and Innovation (front row, centre) with UNDP representative, WRC CEO (to the right of Minister) and seven innovators
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The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in South Africa and the Water Research Commission (WRC) today awarded grants to the value of R3million to seven innovators at an award ceremony in Pretoria. The grants, partially funded by the Government of Japan through UNDP, are to conduct field testing and further develop their solutions. These solutions are aimed at addressing the country’s water challenges, particularly those exacerbated/introduced during COVID-19. These seven innovators were selected from a long list of 36 applications and a shortlist of 16 who were invited to present their ideas at a pitching session. The implementation of this phase will signify the beginning of the next stage of product development towards an eventual product that can impact South Africa’s water and sanitation landscape. This joint initiative aims to accelerate the rate at which we address South Africa’s pressing water need and achieve progress on Sustainable Development Goal 6 on clean water and sanitation.

In their opening remarks, both Mr Gabriel Dava, Deputy Resident Representative of UNDP South Africa and Mr Dhesigen Naidoo, CEO of the Water Research Commission acknowledged the importance of partnerships such as this one for the advancement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the big role that innovation has to play. “Today’s development challenges are moving faster than our tailored solutions. Our current approaches are not making enough progress against these 21st century challenges. Effectively addressing these challenges requires radical new approaches that fit the complexity of current development challenges” added Mr Dava.

Mr Mark Bannister, Chief Engineer in the Ministry of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation reiterated the importance of innovation and emphasized the power of improvisation which encourages imagination and yields creativity. He praised the innovators for demonstrating the concept of “thinking outside the box, but not forgetting what is inside the box itself”.

In his address, the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Dr Blade Nzimande cited COVID-19 and climate change as two of the  fourfold water-related global crises that we face. He acknowledged the challenges that arise when addressing these crises and called for an integrated approach to address them. He urged for water to be used as an economic good that promotes inclusion and should therefore “be in at the centre of economic development with the same importance as energy”, he added.

The Minister also used this opportunity to announce the upcoming appointment of two new research chairs for the water sector by the National Research Foundation – under the Resource Economics and Economic Sustainability of Water Services. The chairs are expected to contribute to the sustainability of water and sanitation sector. Having worked with many other stakeholders, the Minister commended the UNDP/WRC partnership and the valuable initiative which will have a significant impact in the lives of South Africans who remain unable to protect themselves from COVID-19 due to the lack of proper water and sanitation. He further expressed his excitement to witness this unfold, demonstrating the usefulness of innovation in tackling these kinds of development issues. He congratulated the seven innovators as he presented them with award certification.

For more information, or media interviews please contact:

United Nations, Rhulani Lehloka: 0663071827/rhulani.lehloka@undp.org  

Water Research Commission, Sifiso Mazibuko: (012) 761-9300/ Sifisom@wrc.org.za

 

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