Tanya Kalyan (South Africa) - Astronauts, Inventors and Entrepreneurs

Mid-October saw thousands of space scientists, engineers and enthusiasts flock to Cape Town for the 62nd International Astronautical Congress, the largest space conference of its kind. This year's theme was ‘African Astronaissance' and as the play on words suggests, the conference focused on development, progress and change. The talks ranged from wonderful to the somewhat wacky, with lectures on airbags for astronauts, debates on extra-terrestrial communication and discussions on human space flight. South Africa is rebuilding itself as a nation big on innovation and invention. This was just one of the 49 conferences the country played host to this season.

It is clear the country's focus is to actively support a progressive business culture, and South Africa is emerging not only as a forerunner in the pursuit of the final frontier, but also as a growing pioneer in the field of technology.Tech4Africa was held from the 27-28th October in Johannesburg. Talks were geared around combining global ideas into an African context and creating solutions that will find traction around the world. Some of the conference's main focuses included cloud computing and its relevance for South Africa, and mobile and wireless innovation for the next three years.

This year event organisers launched the Tech4Africa Innovation Award. Designed to recognise home grown innovation and inspire the industry to develop solutions to uniquely African challenges. The award was won by Gustav Praekelt for his medical appointment reminder system TxtAlert, a mobile technology platform designed to improve adherence to Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART).

On the 12th May some of the most innovative thinkers and entrepreneurs in the Internet space gathered at The Net Prophet conference in Cape Town to share stories, ideas and predictions for the future. The event was extremely successful. According to a BrandsEye study, on the day there were 3530 tweets either engaged with @NetProphetLive, or who used NetProphet as a hash tag. Educating, inspiring and equipping entrepreneurs were the primary goals of the conference. A main theme that came out of the talks was the importance of establishing the right culture for producing entrepreneurs that not only think globally, but also compete on the global stage.

There is no shortage of entrepreneurial energy in SA and the focus on development is striking. Over the years the country has made tremendous progress in achieving a number of developmental objectives, and is now facing new and urgent challenges. Globally concerns about climate change are growing, bringing the new threat of sustainability to the fore. We are on the brink of the industrialisation of renewable energy technology, and it is South Africa at the helm with the critical COP 17 being held in Durban for the first time this year. To mark this occasion, the country launched its first ever clean tech competition incentive. The awards aimed to galvanise SMEs across Africa to develop sustainable technologies and create solutions to some of the most critical environmental problems. However, in order for us to harvest this research these technologies still need to cross the bridge into commercialism.

The growth of conferences across South Africa showcases the surge of innovation happening in the country. Let's hope this spirit continues to gain momentum in 2012. What do you think the coming year holds for SA?

By Tanya Kalyan intern at IDG Connect.



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