South Africa was one of two finalist countries bidding to become home to the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), a €2.6 billion project to build the world’s largest radio telescope (that will, in fact, span 11 African countries). South Africa was seen as an outsider since Australia, the other finalist, had a long history of such projects.
Baird’s CMC was retained by the Government of South Africa to help build understanding of the unique strengths of the country’s proposal amongst officials, ministers, legislators, scientific opinion leaders and journalists in the countries which would decide on the future of the project (these included Canada, China, France, India, Italy and the UK). We worked closely with South African diplomatic missions and specialised SA teams in Brussels and Washington to host events in cities including London, Paris, Shanghai and Washington DC. We also managed familiarisation projects and helped journalists in writing accurate, authoritative stories.
Over a ten-month period, a strong case for an African SKA was presented to influencers and decision-makers in the USA, UK, Canada, India, South Africa and China. This activity successfully contributed to South Africa being awarded half of this project. The SKA organisation decided both South Africa and Australia would contribute to the final design of the telescope.