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Parliament, 12 November 2019 – The National Assembly (NA) has during its plenary sitting today approved the passing of the Convention Establishing the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Observatory.

The purpose of the SKA is to facilitate and promote a global collaboration in radio astronomy with a view to deliver transformational science. The SKA is an international, mega-science project whose aim is to build the world’s largest and most sensitive radio telescope which will be co-located in Africa and Australia. The African component comprises of South Africa (core region), Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia and Zambia.

The Constitution distinguishes between the various categories of international agreements and the Rules of the NA sets out the process for tabling these agreements in Parliament. In terms of section 231 (2) of the Constitution,the Convention is an agreement that binds South Africa only after it has been approved by resolution in both the NA and the National Council of Provinces.

The SKA Observatory is the first and only science intergovernmental organisation where Africa plays a strategic leading role. Astronomy is one area in which South Africa truly has a competitive advantage and whose benefits include the development of skilled knowledge workers and increased business opportunities to local communities.

Radio telescopes work in much the same way as a normal radio where the radio’s receiver picks up different frequencies - the difference is that radio telescopes collect cosmic radio waves from outer space. These radio signals are processed by computers that can interpret them to form images of the Universe.

On 12 March 2019 in Rome seven countries, namely Australia, China, Italy, The Netherlands, Portugal, South Africa, and the United Kingdom became initial signatories to the Convention. The Netherlands is the first country to have ratified the SKA Observatory Convention on 31 July 2019.

ISSUED BY PARLIAMENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA
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