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Deputy Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment keynote speech ceremonial launch of the FOREST21 workshop launch event virtual conference

14 April 2021

Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation in South Africa
Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Finland
Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Norway
Members of the diplomatic corpse
The Vice Chancellors of Universities
Academic Staff
Representatives of industry

Ladies and Gentlemen

According to the results of the United Nations World Population Prospects-the 2019 revision, the global population will grow with approximately 2 billion people and reach 9.7 billion in 2050. The report further stipulates that more than half of the global population growth between now and 2050 is expected to occur in Africa.

The global population growth and growth in specific countries has implications on key issues of development, amongst others food security, industrialisation, and rapid urbanisation. The latter two issues have an impact on environmental issues such as global warming which contribute to climate change.

Another critical challenge facing the world and developing countries is the high unemployment rate with associated issues of some citizens being food insecure, especially at household level. A key issue to be addressed in this regard is the creation of economic and employment opportunities, especially where the majority of the population comprises of the youth.

Social measures and safety nets for the most vulnerable in communities still play a role in alleviating the plight of those who do not have the means of survival. However, putting a heavy burden will be unsustainable on these social support mechanisms without stimulating economic growth and creating economic and employment opportunities.

Creation in the forestry sector of economic and employment opportunities can be realised through the inculcation of a sense of entrepreneurship, support to Small Micro and Medium Enterprises (SMMEs) and having well trained and skilled graduates from both academic institutions and other training institutions that offer vocational training.

Forestry as a sector provides economic and employment opportunities in predominantly rural areas, where there are high levels of poverty and unemployment.

Programme Director, the South African Government working with industry and labour has just finalised the Forestry Sector Masterplan. Cabinet approved the plan for implementation in the 2021 financial year. One of the Key Focus areas of the Masterplan is Research Development, and Innovation, Human Resources and Skills Development. This focus area is aimed at ensuring that we have well skilled professionals and technocrats in the field of forestry to implement the Masterplan, which is essentially a growth, transformation and investment plan for the sector. In addition, the focus area on Skills Development will ensure that entrepreneurs are created in the sector who can create employment opportunities and grow the economy.

This ideal can be achieved if and only if our institutions that provide training, learning and teaching are strengthened to produce graduates that can adapt to the dynamic and changing environment, skilled people who have an entrepreneurial spirit leading to them creating their Small, Micro and Medium enterprises and hiring people and above all products that will be resilient. We are still in the middle of the Covid 19 Pandemic and the most resilient enterprises are those that will survive in most of the cases.

Programme Director we are pleased to note that the FOREST 21 initiative seeks to inculcate the climate-smart forestry and entrepreneurial innovativeness in forestry education. We are looking forward to brighter prospects with Finland and Norway, as are partners in the joint project to strengthen capacity within higher education institutions offering forestry in South Africa.

The initial Forest Industrialisation Conference by South African Forestry Company Limited (SAFCOL) in partnership with other key role players was seemingly a good initiative that resulted in the initiation of a partnership between Forestry South Africa and HAMK University in Finland.  This was followed by a visit by Forestry Departmental personnel in South Africa to Finland. Today, these initiatives have resulted in the collaboration if Department of Higher Education, Science and Innovation( DHESI), Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE), South African Qualification Authority (SAQA), Council on Higher Education (CHE), Fibre Processing and Manufacturing (FPM) SETA , Universities of Witwatersrand and Pretoria, Mpumalanga and Forestry Industries in South Africa, Norway and Finland.

We are also pleased to learn that about 80 students will participate in the programme and that this will commence as soon as the enrolment processes at the institutions are completed

The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment would like to express its support for the initiative and that we will cooperate with our counterparts at Department of Higher Education, Science and Innovation to ensure its success.

The project that will run for the next three years will surely improve the efforts of the forestry sector to mitigate and adapt against climate change. We hope the initiative will also improve the entrepreneurial innovativeness of the sector to create more sustainable, high tech, lucrative product and service-oriented businesses, which will assist the country to curb unemployment, inequality and poverty.

Thank You.


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