The University of Cape Town (UCT), in collaboration with the Geneva Science Diplomacy Anticipator (GESDA) and the Science Diplomacy Capital for Africa (SDCfA), hosted a discussion at the World Science Forum 2022 titled “Youth in Science and Diplomacy – From Anticipatory Science to Solutions for Humanity” on 7 December at the Cape Town International Convention Centre. The discussion moved from the premise that breakthroughs in science are occurring at an unprecedented pace, but their full ramifications are not always evident in the present.
The goal of the event was to discuss how best to achieve intergenerational justice and ensure Africa’s youth were empowered to fully leverage the potential of new science advances to tackle inequality and make sure all people benefit from the human right to science. In addition, the question the event sought to answer was how these discoveries would reshape the human experience in five, 10 or 25 years, and how we could ensure the impact was for the benefit of all humanity.
“Breakthroughs in science are occurring at an unprecedented pace, but their full ramifications are not always evident in the present.”
The event was hosted by UCT Vice-Chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng. Speakers included Dr Gérard Escher, senior advisor to the Board of GESDA; Dr Lidia Brito, UNESCO regional director for southern Africa; Professor Francesco Petruccione, South African Research Chair for Quantum Information Processing and Communication and interim director of the National Institute for Theoretical and Computational Science at Stellenbosch University; and Dr Chris Trisos, the director of the Climate Risk Lab at UCT’s African Climate and Development Initiative (ACDI).
Geneva summit presentations
Three young South Africans who represented UCT at the GESDA Summit in Geneva in October, also took part in the discussion. Bekithemba Ntoni, Rejoyce Kgabo Legodi and Niel Swanepoel presented the projects that won them the competition to represent UCT at the Geneva Anticipation Summit.
Ntoni, an international relations master’s student; Legodi, a film and media studies student; and Swanepoel, who completed a political communication honours degree at UCT, were selected to travel to Geneva based on their submissions of applying the thinking of the GESDA 2021 Science Breakthrough Radar. They attended the three-day event with Professor Phakeng.
For the initial competition that took him to the summit, Ntoni submitted an entry that looked at how outer space resources, such as Low Earth Orbit and Geosynchronous Earth Orbit satellites could be used to monitor geological and climate events. Legodi indicated how she used the opportunity at the summit to share more about the concept she entered the competition with. Her concept was developing biogas – a renewable natural gas – from cow dung and manure. Swanepoel shared his opinion on the developmental opportunities of technology and discussed the ideas from his entry on African data privacy framework with people who worked in policy and in scientific fields.
The session concluded with a short workshop, which used emerging neurotechnologies as a case study, looking at their impact and how they are currently being addressed. Participants were invited to share their immediate thoughts on the future benefits and risks related to these technologies.
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