The United Nations in South Africa joined the Department of Science and Technology in celebrating Africa Day at the Freedom Park in Pretoria. The day is marked annually on 25 May to celebrate the founding of the Organization of African Unity (now called the African Union) in 1963. The theme for this year was “Celebrating the advancement of science in Africa with specific emphasis on the role of data collection in tracking the Sustainable Development Goals for informing policies.”
An exhibition was held in the morning with the UN displaying various publications from all 17 agencies present in South Africa. There was also an interactive discussion with Grade 12 learners on career opportunities at the UN and a briefing on the work of the UN in South Africa and across the globe. Specific discussions with learners included issues of xenophobia and gender-based violence during which learners were provided with relevant reading material from agencies such as UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the UN Women. Male learners were also informed about the “HeForShe” campaign whose aim is to encourage men to play a role in advancing the rights of women in different spaces such as schools, universities and public places, including at taxi ranks.
Other exhibitors also promoted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), showcasing the positive impact of growing food in home gardens and the role of science in improving the quality of life.
Formal proceedings included presentations by Dr Ibrahim Mayaki from NEPAD, Statistics South Africa’s Dr Desmond Booysen and the UN Development Programme’s economist Fatou Leigh. Ms. Leigh highlighted the role of economics in achieving the SDGs. She explained the difference between the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the SDGs, and how the latter are more innovative and inclusive as well as more coherent in data generation, monitoring and evaluation. “With the SDGs, we are trying to be more inclusive, so that certain groups should not be left behind because of race, background or socioeconomic factors,” she explained.
Ms. Leigh further added that cities should be made more inclusive to create conditions for greater productivity and expand urbanization. She also touched on challenges such as growing inequality and exclusion, safety and security issues, informal jobs and the provision of quality services.
The Chief Executive Officer of Freedom Park, Jane Mufamadi, called for an expansion of education to more Africans so they could use what they have learnt to bring about change in their communities. Ms. Mufamadi emphasized the importance that culture and the role belief systems play in the lives of all people and how science can be included into that space.