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South Africa

South Africa

Policy background

The research and development (R&D) strategy is established as part of the White Paper on Science, Technology and Innovation. This document outlines the objectives for R&D and the measures that will be put in place to achieve these goals. It aims to increase diversity and accessibility in the R&D sector, improve higher education output and upgrade the research infrastructure.

The research agenda for transport is established in transport planning documents and strategies. Key transport planning documents in South Africa include:

  • National Development Plan 2030 (NDP 2030): Our future – make it work: The aim of the National Development Plan is to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality by 2030 by developing a strategic framework to guide key choices and actions on a range of interlinked issues.
  • National Land Transport Strategic Framework (2023-2029): The purpose of this document is to:
  • serve as a fiver-year framework for integrated lang use transport planning.
  • serve as an enabler of land use and transport planning aspects as guided by the NDP 2030.
  • Provide guiding principles that integrate various modes of land transport within the planning context of the NDP and support wider relevant national legislation and policy
  • Provide clarity about the transport planning priorities to enable effective decision-making at all levels of government
  • Align transport to sustainable development
  • Enhance coordination between the various spheres of government
  • White Paper on National Transport Policy: This document sets out the objectives and measures to ensure that the transport system provides equitable and reliable access for all in an economically and environmentally sustainable manner to advance inclusive growth and competitiveness of the country. It states that the Government will support research into, the development of, and implementation of appropriate and innovative technologies to meet present needs, as well as to keep pace with rapid development of advanced transportation and information technologies internationally.
  • Green Transport Strategy for South Africa 2018-2050: This planning document lays out the detailed framework for developing a transport system that has reduced greenhouse gas emissions and environmental impact while still maintaining quality service and accessibility. To achieve the objectives, transport research will be based upon priority areas such as electric vehicle batteries, biofuels and fuel cells.

Institutional framework of transport research

The Department of Science and Innovation holds the responsibility of creating, implementing and managing R&D policy and strategy in South Africa. The Department of Transport is responsible for creating transport policy, which is incorporated into transport planning documents. It contributes to the transport research agenda by establishing areas of interest.

The main areas of transport research are:

  • Public transport in urban areas
  • Traffic safety (road primarily)
  • Efficient and integrated transport infrastructure network including rural areas
  • Interoperability and harmonisation of transport infrastructure also in relation to neighbouring countries
  • Transport modelling (general and freight related)
  • Improving port efficiency and capacity
  • Greening transport (all aspects of transport related environmental impacts)
  • Electric vehicles and less energy intensive technologies
  • Moving freight from road to rail
  • Asset management in transport
  • Transport economics (implementing the user pays principle)
  • Transport and economic development
  • Labour-enhanced construction of transport infrastructure
  • Pavement engineering

The main funding agency in South Africa is the National Research Foundation (NRF), operating under the Department of Science and Technology. The NRF is a statutory body which funds research, development of high-end human capacity and critical research infrastructure to promote knowledge production across all disciplinary fields. The goal of the NRF is to create innovative funding instruments, advance research career development, increase public science engagement and to establish leading-edge research platforms that will transform the scientific landscape and inspire a representative research community to aspire to global competitiveness. The NRF promotes South African research interests across the country and internationally, and builds communications between research institutions, business, industry and international partners.

Transport research is funded through the Department of Science and Technology, as well as a small contribution from the Department of Transport.

Funding Sources and Support Initiatives

There are currently no known ongoing national programmes.

International cooperation programmes that South Africa is involved in:

  • ESASTAP was launched during the Sixth European Union Framework Programme to promote, facilitate and coordinate research, development and innovation (RDI) cooperation between South Africa and the European Union in areas of common interest.
  • SAFIPA is a cooperation programme between Finland and South Africa.


(Last updated: 01/09/2023)