Speaking to African heads of state and representatives fr om Russian, African, and international business and government agencies, Rosatom Director General Alexey Likhachov yesterday emphasised the benefits of nuclear energy in job creation and regional economic development. At the Russia-Africa Summit in Sochi, Russia, Likhachov said global inequality in technological, industrial and socio-economic development was "acutely felt" in Africa.
During a roundtable session titled The Contribution of Nuclear Technologies in the Development of Africa, he said these challenges "demand immediate solutions", which nuclear technology "can fully respond to".
"We are talking about solutions related to raising the level of education, energy security, applying nuclear solutions to medicine, agriculture, as well as other scientific research and development. Every dollar invested in our projects in any country, brings two dollars in localisation to that country. This significantly increases the country's GDP," he said.
Rosatom said a job is created for every 0.5 MWe of electricity produced at a nuclear power plant, meaning that a 1000 MWe plant provides employment for more than 2000 people. Human capital development is both "a condition and a consequence" of nuclear power plant construction projects, it added.
Through joint educational programmes, the Russian state nuclear corporation is attracting applicants from African countries to its partner universities in Russia, it said, and Rosatom has already awarded up to 50 scholarships to students from Rwanda and Zambia. They are among hundreds of other African students from countries such as Algeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, it added.
Claver Gatete, Rwanda's minister of infrastructure, said: "In order to grow our industries from 17% GDP to 30% GDP, and to achieve our ambition of becoming a high-income country by 2050, we want to take advantage of nuclear to enhance our socio-economic development." Rwanda sees a clear link, he said, between nuclear technologies and the country's vision of development.
Citing data from the World Economic Forum, Rosatom noted that 15 to 20 million young people are to enter Africa's workforce in the next two decades, meaning that 15% of the world’s working-age population will be in Africa, with 60% under-25s.
Roland Msiska, head of the Zambia Atomic Energy Agency, said prospective nuclear projects will create "exciting training opportunities" for the country's young people, both locally and in Russia, and ensure "long-term stable employment and development".
"Most of our plans in Africa are short-term. You cannot do short-term planning in nuclear science. At a minimum, you are looking at a 60-year horizon. Such inter-generational long-term planning is essential for sustainable development," he said.
According to a report produced by Rosatom and WorldSkills Russia, titled A Global Challenge for One Billion Workers, “a skills mismatch” already affects 1.3 billion workers, whereby an individual is either over- or under-qualified for their role. This means that training opportunities are crucial, not only in Africa but globally, it says.
Citing the International Monetary Fund, Rosatom noted that 6% of the world's GDP - USD5 trillion - is lost every year owing to the increasing gap between skills supply and demand.
The Russia-Africa Summit "marks an important step" towards developing trade and economic relations between them, Rosatom said. "Nuclear energy is just one aspect of this relationship, but a promising one, not only to ensure power supply but also to provide long-term and stable employment for Africa's growing population."
Likhachov and Gatete yesterday signed an agreement to construct Rwanda's first Centre for Nuclear Science and Technology, which will enable the production of radioisotopes for widespread use in industry and agriculture as well as in healthcare, thus addressing the issue of lack of cancer treatment, Rosatom said. It is expected to comprise a multi-purpose research water-cooled reactor with a capacity of up to 10 MWe.
Likhachov had the previous day signed an agreement on cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy with the Ethiopian minister of innovation and technology, Getahun Mekuria.
Yesterday, Rosatom also signed a Memorandum of Cooperation with the People's Friendship University of Russia to work on promoting Russian nuclear education abroad, mainly in African countries.
During the Russia-Africa Economic Forum that also took place in Sochi this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Rosatom is ready to create a nuclear industry for its African partners, on a turnkey basis, and construct research centres based on multipurpose reactors.
He noted that Rosatom is already building a 4800 MWe nuclear power plant with Egypt, working on nuclear cooperation with other countries on the continent, such as Zambia, and is signing agreements for co-operation with other countries, including Ethiopia and Rwanda.
Putin said the construction of a Russian "industrial zone" in Egypt was nearing completion.
"This is a large site in the economic zone of the Suez Canal, wh ere companies from Russia will be able to localise their production facilities. About 20 Russian enterprises are planned to be connected to this work, and this is only 20 enterprises now: I am sure that there will be more," Putin said, according to media reports.
To ease the debt burden of African countries, Putin said, write-offs now exceed USD20 billion and will enable funding of economic growth projects.
African countries are attracting more and more attention from Russian business, he said, largely because Africa is becoming one of the centres of global economic growth with a combined USD29-trillion GDP forecast by 2050.
Russian-African trade has more than doubled to surpass USD20 billion, he said, but the potential is far greater, given that USD7.7 billion of this, or 40%, is with Egypt alone.