African Countries Rush to Sign Nuclear Deals With Russia

But concerns are being raised about whether they can all afford nuclear energy.

The Russian nuclear power corporation Rosatom has already signed nuclear cooperation agreements with about 18 African counties, as Russia accelerates its drive for nuclear business on the continent.

The growing commitment of African countries to high capital cost nuclear energy has raised some concern about whether they are committing themselves to unaffordable debt.

Rosatom director-general Alexey Likhachev revealed a large number of nuclear agreements with African countries after signing an intergovernmental agreement on cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy with the Ethiopian Minister of Innovation and Technology, Getahun Mekuria Kuma, during the Russia-Africa Summit in Sochi on the Black Sea last week.

Mekuria later told the Russian official news agency Tass that Ethiopia had plants to build a nuclear power plant.

Rosatom later also signed an agreement with Rwanda at the summit on cooperation for the construction of a centre of nuclear science and technology in Rwanda. Rosatom had a strong presence at the economic forum which paralleled the political summit. The Rosatom stand attracted scores of interested African government officials on the sidelines of the forum.

Najat Mokhtar, deputy director-general and head of the Department of Nuclear Sciences and Applications at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) told a discussion on nuclear energy at the Sochi economic forum that:

“Nuclear technologies are a very important tool in the development and drafting of sustainable development goals.”

Claver Gatete, minister of infrastructure of the Republic of Rwanda, said in the discussion:

“We have a dream: we want to become a highly developed country by 2035 and a country with a high standard of living by 2050. Nuclear energy should be the main driver for achieving the goals facing our country.”

Roland Msiska, head of the Zambia Atomic Energy Agency, which has also signed a nuclear cooperation agreement with Rosatom, said:

“There are other aspects of nuclear technologies that have made us pay great attention to them.

“These include modern technologies, such as artificial intelligence, robotics, and the Internet of Things. All this is our future and where we should be heading. These technologies are very important to us, especially in the mining sector.”

Likhachev told journalists after the discussion that Rosatom had now signed memoranda of understanding or intergovernmental agreements with about one-third of countries on the continent – about 18. He could not say how many of these were about scientific cooperation and how many were about producing nuclear energy “because very often those two tracks go hand in hand”.

But he did say in the discussion that about half of the African countries with which Rosatom had signed nuclear agreements were actively discussing joint projects with the corporation, which had been stipulated in contracts. The most advanced joint project is with Egypt, which has contracted Rosatom to build a 4,800MW nuclear power plant.

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