Web site: www. au.int.org
Friday, 1 June 2012
DIRECTORATE OF INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION
PRESS RELEASE 049/ 20112
PROF. JEAN-PIERRE ONVÊHOUN EZIN, COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RESOURCES, SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY WELCOMES THE SQUARE KILOMETRE ARRAY ORGANISATION SITE DECISION
Addis Ababa, 30 May 2012 – ““I congratulate South Africa, along with the eight African partner countries Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia and Zambia for winning the right to co-host the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope on the African continent”.
This was underlined by Professor Jean-Pierre Ezin, Commissioner for Human Resources, Science and Technology on behalf of the African Union Commission in a statement published on 28 May 2012. The Professor expressed his appreciation for the importance of hosting the Square Kilometre Array in Africa. He noted this is not the achievement only for South Africa but for the African continent. The SKA, he said, has been endorsed by the African Union, both in 2010 and earlier this year 2012. He added that, the decision by the SKA Organisation to build the majority of the SKA in Africa coincided with Africa Day celebrations on the 25 May 2012 which further cemented that Africa is on a new path of growth and development.
Prof. Ezin explained that, after nine-years of work by the African and Australian SKA site bid teams, the independent SKA Site Advisory Committee (SSAC), composed of world-renowned experts, carried out an objective technical and scientific assessment of the sites in South Africa and Australia, and recommended Africa as the preferred site to host the SKA, but noted that both sites were suitable to host the SKA.
“However, in order to be inclusive, the SKA Organisation has agreed to consider constructing one of the three SKA receiver components in Australia. Two will be constructed in Africa. A meeting of the members has decided to split the project which is an unexpected decision given the search for a single site. We had hoped the unambiguous recommendation of the SSAC would be accepted as the most sound scientific outcome. We accept the decision by SKA members in the interest of science and as acknowledgement of the sterling work done by our scientists and the excellent SKA project team” the Commissioner underlined.
According to Prof. Ezin, an important aspect of the site decision is the recognition of the MeerKAT telescope, being designed and built in the Northern Cape Karoo by South African scientists and engineers, as a critical step towards the implementation of the SKA. The MeerKAT will supplement the sensitive SKA Phase 1 dish array, providing a majority of the collection area of what will be the most sensitive radio telescope in the world. This recognition is substantive evidence of the great strides made by the local radio astronomy community since South Africa signaled its interest in the SKA. “We look forward to continue building Africa's international partnerships in radio astronomy, and are especially delighted with the progress made to include radio astronomy as a priority focus area for the Joint Africa-EU Strategy's Science, Information Society and Space Partnership, as instructed by the African Heads of State and Government”, he said. (See complete statement of Prof. Jean-Pierre Ezin on the AU Website: www.au.int ).