New SKA road benefits community

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor says the launch of a new R200 million, 80 kilometre stretch of road that leads to the site of the MeerKAT radio telescope is significant for community development.

The Minister unveiled the road, built near the small town of Carnarvon in the Karoo, on Saturday during a visit to the MeerKat and Square Kilometre Array site. The MeerKAT radio telescope project is a precursor to the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) which on completion will be the biggest radio telescope in the world.

Accompanied by Northern Cape Premier Sylvia Lucas, the Minister said the road has created work opportunities for the community.

“This will be a very important route for world researchers so we have to ensure that we have appropriate infrastructure. The road will be a much-travelled road and you have to ensure that people can travel in safety.”

She said government, together with the province, has accelerated those infrastructure initiatives that will benefit the entire community. “So all the surrounding towns have been and will be beneficiaries of this infrastructure.”

The Minister said the support received from the provincial government from the inception of the SKA project had been exceptional.

Speaking later at an imbizo, Gert Neels, a local contractor whose company built the road, said the project has made a difference to the livelihoods of locals who got work experience during the project.

SKA project significant for Africa

The Minister said, meanwhile, that the SKA project itself has brought with it a number of benefits.

For the first time global infrastructure is located in Africa.

“Major research initiatives are undertaken in Europe or in the United States or other parts of the world, rarely do you see research of global importance done on the African continent. So we are placing Africa on the global scientific map and that is very important.”

Minister Pandor said the MeerKAT has attracted over 500 research groups that have booked time from 45 different countries.  

“Because we are launching research infrastructure of this kind, we are going to train new engineers, new astrophysicists, mathematicians in Africa and IT specialists because all these domains are absolutely important for a research sector of this kind,” she said. –

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