The Embassy of Italy in South Africa, in occasion of the “Italian research day in the world 2021“, celebrated by Italian diplomatic missions worldwide, organized in cooperation with the Academy of Science of South Africa an event aimed at celebrating scientific cooperation between the two countries.

origin centre
The Origins Centre of the University of the Witwatersrand

The event took place this morning at the Origins Centre of the University of the Witwatersrand, in Johannesburg, and it focused on joint researched activities carried out by the University of the Witwatersrand and the Italian University of Padua at the Sterkfontein caves, located in the South African province of Gauteng. The Sterkfontein caves were declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999 and represent a place of global interest for paleoanthropologists.

Cooperation between the two universities aims at creating a digital model of the interior of the Sterkfontein caves, which still contain a high number of fossils. The digital model will be created thanks to modern survey techniques that allow researchers to develop 3d models for the study of places and objects of cultural heritage. The aim is to provide researchers with an advanced tool for excavation activities as well for cataloguing and studying artefacts.

south africa ambassador cuculi
Italian Ambassador Paolo Cuculi

This morning’s event, held both online and in presence, was attended by 60 South African high-school students, and aimed at stimulating their interest for scientific and technical disciplines and careers. The speakers presented the innovative methods used by the research teams of the two universities, as well as their achievements so far, highlighting how genetic and archeological studies demonstrate the common origin of humankind.

The meeting was opened by Italian Ambassador Paolo Cuculi and Himla Soodyall, Executive Officer of the Academy of Science of South Africa, followed by Prof Dominic Stratford of the University of the Witwatersrand, Dr Stefania Merlo of the University of Cambridge, and Prof Giuseppe Salemi of the University of Padua.

sterkfontein grotte
An image of the Sterkfontein caves, in South Africa

Relations between Italy and South Africa, the most advanced and diversified African economy, are characterized by a solid friendship and strong commercial ties, that became even stronger over the last years. South Africa is Italy’s first commercial partner in sub-Saharan Africa, while Italy represents South Africa’s tenth supplier and eighteenth costumer. In 2018, Italian export to South Africa grew by 8.5%, reaching for the first time a total value of €2 billion.

At the same time, Italian companies are increasingly present in the country, that is seen as a gate toward other regional markets. Italian companies in South Africa include large corporations, mainly interested in the infrastructure, building and renewable energies sectors, as well as several SMEs, whose size and flexibility are well suited for the South African market.