The Moses Kotane Institute (MKI) is the brainchild of Dr Zweli Mkhize; Premier KwaZulu-Natal, former MEC for Finance and Economic Development (KwaZulu-Natal) and Dr Eugene Ngcobo; MP, Chairman of Science and Technology portfolio committee in the South African National Legislature, former Chairman of Minerals and Energy portfolio committee.

The institute was conceptualised in December 2007, with ideas contributed by members of the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Economic Development (DED), National Department of Science and Technology (DST), National Research Foundation (NRF), University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), and Thekwini Further Education and Training College (FET), among others. The ideas that led to the conceptualisation of this institute form a significant part of its business plan.

Significant contributions for the creation and enhancement of a world-class research environment in South Africa were as a result of the efforts of:
  • the National Department of Science and Technology (DST),
  • the National Department of Trade and Industry (DTI),
  • national research facilities such as the National Research Foundation (NRF)'s Research and Innovation Support and Advancement (RISA),
  • and the South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement (SAATA) facilities in order to bolster Science, Engineering and Technology (SET) education and skills.

Consequent to these contributions, a significant number of previously disadvantaged members of our society have since benefited through scholarships, research grants and collaborations with overseas institutions.

Despite the commendable progress made by the NRF in the last decade or so, there are still serious challenges that are underpinned by inadequate science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills in the broader South African citizenry. The most affected by this inadequacy being a large proportion of previously discriminated communities. These South Africans are the former members of the liberation struggle whose schooling was disrupted by their choice to participate in liberation activities. Ultimately, their revolutionary involvement sacrificed their personal development of critical STEM skills.

There are also many members of the liberation struggle who have joined the government as employees at various levels from national to local government. There are those, however, among these employees who still do not have the minimum requirements to secure sustainable and meaningful employment. Furthermore, a significant proportion of those who have managed to secure employment within the Public sector,do not possess the adequate and required skills in critical areas. These skills are necessary for a modern cadre of the new South Africa to be able to deliver services, and contribute to the prosperity of the developmental state.

Science, technology, engineering, mathematics, philosophy and political science remain the critical skills required to achieve the acceptable level of economic prosperity, egalitarianism and sustainable development. The paucity of these critical skills among government employees has led to bottlenecks in service delivery and impacted negatively on the achievement of the goals set in the Freedom Charter. This has resulted in disappointment and suffering of the very same constituents whose hopes of drastic and rapid change in their lives were set high at the dawn of a free South Africa for all who live in it.

The government's primary aim is to increase the number of engineering graduates from the present annual average of 4 000 to 12 000 by the end of year- 2010. This means that institutions of higher learning are expected to generate an average of 2 400 graduate engineers per annum. There is currently a shortage of between 800 and 1 200 engineers, technologists and technicians in the domain of local governments alone, throughout South Africa.

The role of STEM and political philosophy skills in society is intricately linked to the contemporary challenges of South Africa and the world:
  • food insecurity (which is caused mainly by poverty, environmental degradation and lack of technical skills to manage natural resources for food production);
  • scarcity of energy resources (which is caused mainly by population growth and unscrupulous utilization and management of the natural resource base);
  • human diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, TB, cancer, and lifestyle-related illnesses;
  • and moral degeneration (which is caused mainly by poor understanding of the philosophy of the spiritual value of humans and the creation around us (ubuntu), as well as a lack of political rectitude).

The need to establish the Moses Kotane Institute was informed by the challenges identified above. It is therefore clearly understood that this institute will serve to add value to the existing interventions such as (Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative for South Africa (ASGISA), Joint Initiative on Priority Skills Acquisition (JIPSA), Moral Regeneration Movement (MRM) and South African Institute for International Affairs (SAIIA), among others.

The institute will also fast track the skills development for the present adult population (from all population groups) of service providers, teachers and law-makers, who have a responsibility to deliver a better life for all South Africans.