Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa says the youth must take the baton and lead the science revolution.
"We have a responsibility to develop a community of young people that believe there is a future for science in South Africa and on the continent.
"They must see themselves as agents of development, working to redesign the urban environment, expanding transport networks and building new, more sustainable human settlements," said the Deputy President.
He delivered a keynote address at the Science Forum South Africa on Thursday to a packed auditorium of science enthusiasts, intellectuals and thought leaders from all over the world.
The forum provides a platform to sharpen public debate on the role of science in the lives of people and how the practice of science can be advanced. It was held under the theme 'Igniting conversation about science'.
The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) was abuzz with discussions on ground breaking innovations, the data revolution, genomics, the internet of things and everything to do with science.
The panel discussions and exhibitions of locally developed technology will run for two days.
Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor said the forum's mandate is to enable ground breaking research and to showcase African science and technology to the world.
"We want to change the way they talk about us. Too little is known about the tremendous contributions African scientists make towards global science. We need to profile African countries as reliable partners of choice for global scientific cooperation."
The field of science is identified in the National Development Plan and the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals as crucial to move the country towards economic diversification and sustainability.
African Union Commissioner for Science and Technology, Sarah Anyang Agbo, said through science, African countries can successfully overcome challenges such as poverty, inequality, climate change and disease outbreaks.
The Deputy President said the development of programmes such as the South African National Space Agency's earth observation and the hosting of the Square Kilometre Array radio telescope shows capability.
"Africans have the ability to go beyond being consumers, they can become developers as well," said the Deputy President.
In closing, the Deputy President said government looks forward to the outcomes of the debates as they will serve to inform policy development.