Minister for Infrastructure Ernest Nsabimana speaks to the media after a meeting on Nuclear Science and Technology in Kigali on July 18. Photo: Courtesy.
A total of 100 Rwandans are next month expected to graduate with different levels in the industry of nuclear science and technology in what is seen as a major boost for the industry that is new in Rwanda.
The studies include everything from radiation oncologists, medical physics, radiation therapy technologists, nurses as well as the economics of those industries.
Ernest Nsabimana, Minister for Infrastructure, revealed the development on Monday, July 18 during an interview.
He was speaking at the sidelines of the 33rd Technical Working Group of the African Regional Cooperative Agreement for Research, Development and Training related to Nuclear Science and Technology (AFRA) meeting underway in Kigali.
The move comes at a time Rwanda seeks to leverage nuclear science and technology to promote economic growth and transformation mainly because nuclear is seen as a key enabler to propelling certain industries such as energy, health, security, and others.
“We are looking to partner with more countries to continue building the capacity of our nuclear scientists. In August we have about 100 who are going to graduate,” Nsabimana responded, when questioned on the pool of Rwandans skilled in nuclear studies.
Currently, Russia trains the majority of Rwanda’s nuclear scientists. Both countries have also recently inked a deal to establish a Centre for Nuclear Science and Technology in Rwanda, an agreement Nsabimana confirmed to still be valid despite the Russia-Ukraine crisis.
Since 1990, AFRA, an intergovernmental agreement established by African Member States, seeks to strengthen and enlarge the contribution of nuclear science and technology to Africa’s development.
Minister Nsabimana said that the government is pursuing a number of actions that lay the foundation for the country’s use of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.
For instance, industry experts are invited to train locals in legal and regulatory environments.
There are many challenges specifically in Sub-Saharan Africa including technological issues, finance, limited capacities among others.
But, Minister Nsabimana is convinced that there are also opportunities that can trigger growth using various nuclear applications and practices.
Rwanda currently benefits from nine regional projects under the AFRA programme.
The projects mainly focus on capacity building, technology and knowledge transfer in various fields, including nuclear safety, nuclear applications to enhance crop productivity and climate-resilient agriculture.
Other areas include strengthening food contaminant detection and monitoring, improving the quality of radiotherapy and radiation medicine, strengthening radioactive waste management and the regulatory infrastructure for the control of radiation sources.
“Rwanda is convinced that the investment in this new area of nuclear science and technology will transform lives of the population across Africa in the near future,” Nsabimana said.
Yves Hategekimana, a Rwandan researcher at Aerospace Information Research Institute at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in an earlier interview said that with the rising population, the world requires alternative sources of energy to meet the needs of the future.
“Using nuclear science we can meet our energy targets, which will translate into more job creation because, without energy, a country can’t achieve industrialisation,” he said.
He also argued that the application of nuclear science and technology could boost Rwanda’s space capabilities. That is because nuclear energy is used in batteries that power robotic spacecraft and satellites during space navigation.
Promotion of gender mainstreaming
Catherine K. Mwaba, radiation and clinical oncologist who is also in Kigali for the 2-day meeting believes that there are enormous opportunities for women in nuclear.
Mwaba who also doubles as a member of AFRA management committee, says opportunities range from health, Agriculture, water and sanitation among other sectors.
While it has always been a male dominated industry, she believes that, “Interest in science especially to women should be introduced at a young age.”
Mwaba shared similar sentiments with Minister Nsabimana, who made case for recognizing gender promotion in nuclear studies.
“It is also critical through a range of measures such as prioritizing the training of women scientists and engineers; improving the design and delivery of projects in agriculture, human health, etc. This will allow women to realize their human rights and full potential in this field,” he said.