The SAP Meraka Unit for Technology Development, a partnership between SAP Africa and South Africa’s Meraka Institute supported by the Department of Science and Technology (DST), will begin research this year into the use of information and communications technology (ICT) to alleviate under-development and poverty in South Africa. 


The unit represents co-investment by the DST and SAP to the tune of R50-million each over the next five years in order to develop South African research capabilities in the area of ICT, “to come up with practical ways of using ICT to address socio-economic problems that this country is facing right now," according to Mosibudi Mangena, minister of Science & Technology.
“The fact that SAP is investing with us in such a venture shows what is possible between government and the private sector. We find the motivation and orientation behind their co-investment with us very refreshing.”
Danie Kok, director of the SAP Research CEC in Pretoria, says that “leaving the moral imperatives to one side, we see helping the South African government meet its objectives of triggering research innovation, local development and commercialisation as extremely good business for us.
“That’s because the SAP Meraka Unit will help SAP as a global organisation understand the technology needs of emerging economies and, therefore, enable us to make our products and services more relevant to those markets.
"And, because we already know that products for technology-deprived communities need to be a lot easier to use than they currently are, the adjustments we make to SAP technology for emerging markets are also going to streamline the products we offer in our established markets."
The SAP Meraka Unit’s research agenda focuses on enabling ICT to contribute to the growth of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMMEs) in a developing context. Research topics will include technical applications, infrastructure, business and human-computer interaction.
The unit will also focus on DST objectives internally, by giving masters and doctoral students from previously disadvantaged backgrounds hands-on experience with its research projects.
The SAP Meraka Unit will be jointly managed by the SAP Research CEC in Pretoria, the first of SAP’s seven global research divisions to be based in Africa, and the CSIR’s Meraka Institute, whose major objective is to promote national economic and social development through human capital development and needs-based research and innovation in the ICT sector.
Both organisations will have representation on the unit’s scientific advisory board and management committee in order to assess projects and set research priorities.