The 31st AFRA Technical Working Group Meeting was held virtually from 23 to 24 July 2020 due to the COVID-19 travel restrictions. The Meeting was officially opened by Her Excellency Mme Yayi Ladekan Eleonore, Minister of Higher Education in Benin. This meeting is an important annual AFRA event and was jointly chaired by the current AFRA Chair, Mr Zizamele Mbambo of South Africa and the incoming AFRA Chair Prof Pascal Houngnandan of Benin. The meeting was attended by the 81 participants comprising of the AFRA Chair, 8 Chairs and Members of AFRA Committees, 37 AFRA National Coordinators, the representatives of the Vienna-based-Group of African Ambassadors to the IAEA and the AFCONE Executive Secretary and staff of the Secretariat.
The AFRA Chair, Mr. Zizamele Mbambo welcomed all participants to the meeting and thanked them for the great support he had received. He also thanked AFRA Management and AFRA National Coordinators (NCs) for the innovative ways taken to ensure that AFRA activities continue to be implemented as planned during the COVID-19 pandemic. He encouraged State Parties to pay their contributions to AFRA Fund in full and in a timely manner. The Incoming Chair from Benin, Mr. Pascal Houngnandan also thanked all participants for selecting Benin to host this AFRA TWGM. He promised to work with all to advance the AFRA mandate and vision.
H.E. Ambassador of South Africa, Mr. Rapulane Molekane Chair of the Vienna-based African Group, also addressed the meeting by encouraging AFRA State Parties to involve the youth and women so that they can take advantage of the training opportunities provided by IAEA and AFRA thus contributing to the regional self-reliance in nuclear science and technology.
Mr Shaukat Abdulrazak, Director Division for Africa, Technical Cooperation Department, in his opening statement thanked the AFRA Chair for his continued leadership. He also expressed his gratitude to AFRA Committee members and the AFRA NCs for attending this virtual meeting. He reiterated the importance of reporting and requested AFRA NCs, RDCs and PSCs Focal Points to submit their annual reports to enable AFRA Management to evaluation the achievements of the AFRA Programme. He quoted Peter Drucker who said that “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it and you can't manage what you can't measure.”
On behalf of Mr Dazhu Yang, IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Technical Cooperation, the Director of the Division for Africa underscored the essential role of AFRA NCs and expressed his appreciation to AFRA State Parties for their continued commitment to the AFRA Programme. He reiterated the need for AFRA State Parties to establish and strengthen their national regulatory infrastructures in order to take full advantage of the peaceful uses of nuclear science and technology. On COVID-19, he informed participants that “IAEA is proud to be contributing to international efforts to address COVID-19 by building national capacities to diagnose the virus using real time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction, (RT-PCR) and provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs)”.
H.E Mme Yayi Ladekan Eleonore, Minister of Higher Education of Benin officially opened the TWGM. In her statement, she welcomed all participants to the meeting and expressed her gratitude to AFRA and the IAEA for supporting Benin to Chair AFRA for the period 2020/2021. She was grateful to AFRA for enhancing peaceful uses of nuclear science and technology for economic growth and development in Africa. She informed participants that she wished that the meeting was face-to-face but due to COVID-19 and travel restrictions, the meeting was held virtually. Lastly, she declared the 31st TWGM officially opened and wished all participants successful deliberations during the meeting
The meeting reviewed the performance of the AFRA programme and determined key recommendations to improve on its future delivery and performance of the programme and determine key recommendations. The meeting reviewed and deliberated on the AFRA Working Document, Mid-Term Review of the AFRA Regional Cooperative Framework (RCF) 2019-2023, Regional Programme (RPN) for the TC Cycle 2022-2023, AFRA Fund, Human Resource Development Strategy, Regional Designated Centres, AFRA-AFCONE MOU and Annual reports for AFRA NCs, RDCs and PSCs.
In closing, the meeting participants endorsed a number of concrete programme and policy-related recommendations and resolutions to improve and enhance the performance of the AFRA programme. They will be presented to the 31st Meeting of AFRA Representatives to be convened in the margins of the IAEA 64th.