Fifty-one National Liaison Officers (NLOs) and AFRA National Coordinators (AFRA-NCs) from 37 African countries gathered in Abuja, Nigeria to assess the implementation of the IAEA technical cooperation (TC) programme on the continent. The meeting served as a progress review and reporting platform on the regional TC programme for the attending NLOs, AFRA-NCs and IAEA participants who, together, discussed on implementable, short-term strategies to improve the application of nuclear science, technology and innovation in Africa.
Held from 21 to 25 March, the meeting provided an important opportunity for African stakeholders to the TC programme to deliberate across diplomatic, policy, strategic, and programme-level issues relevant to both the National Liaison Officers and National Coordinators of the African Regional Cooperative Agreement for Research, Development and Training related to Nuclear Science and Technology (AFRA).
“The theme for our meeting this year is ‘Sharpening the Saw,” said Shaukat Abdulrazak, Director of the Division for Africa in the Department of Technical Cooperation of the IAEA. “In this context this meeting will be a chance to pause, disconnect, and self-introspect, with the intention of then becoming more effective, more efficient, and more impactful.”
Underlining the need for ownership and shared responsibility, impact, and complementarity between the regional and national TC programmes in Member States, Director Abdulrazak explained, “NLOs and AFRA-NCs need to enhance and instil the concepts of leadership, sustainability, gender balance, ethics and accountability as key pillars to achieve socio-economic impact, within their designated roles.” “This meeting is an opportunity for the participants to discuss implementable strategies to improve the application of nuclear science, technology and innovation for peaceful uses,” explained Yusuf Ahmed, Chairman of the Nigeria Atomic Energy Commission (NAEC), in his opening remarks. Chairman Ahmed was joined in his greetings by several high-level government officials of the Government of Nigeria, who extended goodwill messages to the attendees. They included representatives of the Federal Ministers of Health, Foreign Affairs, Science and Technology and the Director General of the Nigeria Nuclear Regulatory Authority, who all spoke at the opening ceremony.
African countries that were represented in this regional meeting were Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Republic of Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles, Sudan, Togo, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe.
How can Africa continue its streak of programme success, momentum and impact? How can stakeholders and the IAEA forge new, and optimise existing partnerships, while continuing to achieve its core aims? How can Africa build synergies and improve coordination among African nuclear institutions, to ensure that the available resources are efficiently leveraged? In addition to exploring and addressing these and other questions, the meeting’s participants reviewed IAEA and Member States’ operational frameworks, process workflows, and management approaches. The Meeting also provided a much-needed platform for the exchange of information, the sharing of best practices and peer-to-peer collaboration.
Together, the participants closely reviewed the implementation of the 2020–2021 programme and discussed how to strengthen the implementation of the current cycle, which was launched in January 2022. Regarding the next TC Cycle 2024-2025, the meeting participants explored how to strengthen the project design process, to ensure alignment with their CPFs and national development priorities, and how to enhance complementarity between regional and national projects. An added emphasis was placed on the design of fewer, bigger, and more integrated projects, focusing on achieving tangible results and direct impact.
The Director of the TC Division for Africa held targeted side meetings with NLOs and AFRA NCs from African MSs. The side meetings reached agreements on how to accelerate development of Country Programme Frameworks, promulgation of nuclear laws, establishment of regulatory bodies, and how to optimise participation of Member States in the various IAEA flagship initiatives.
On the fourth day of the event, 24 March, the host country arranged a field visit for all participants to a Multipurpose Gamma Irradiation Facility (GIF) at the Nuclear Technology Centre (NTC) of the Sheda Science and Technology Complex (SHETSCO) in Abuja.
On the final day of the meeting, recommendations had been made on each of the three areas of focus: enhanced ownership and shared responsibility, improved impact, and improved complementarity between the regional and national TC programmes in Member States. The recommendations were adopted and included in a draft report. The meeting was closed with remarks from the Honorable Prince Clem Ikanade Agba, Minister of State, Finance, Budget, and National Planning.