African Regional Cooperative Agreement for Research, Development and Training Related to Nuclear Science and Technology (AFRA) held its 31st Technical Working Group Meeting (TWGM) on Thursday 23rd to Friday 24th July 2020. The meeting was officially opened by the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research (MESRS), Madame Eleonore YAYI LADEKAN, who on behalf of the Benin government welcomed the delegates virtually to Cotonou. The objective of this meeting was to review reports of the AFRA Committees and make recommendations to the Meeting of Representatives (MoR) of Member States for adoption and further action.

The programme included presentations by the Chairpersons of the AFRA Committees namely: Programme Management Committee (PMC); Partnership Building and Resource Mobilization Committee (PBRMC) and High-Level Steering Committee (HLSC) on Human Resource Development and Nuclear Knowledge Management. IAEA was represented by the Deputy Director IAEA and Director for Africa, Technical Cooperation Department, Prof. A. Shaukat. He noted that all regional projects are now under AFRA, the 2021-23 Regional Program Note(RPN) had been finalized and ready for approval by member states, more projects were to be approved in the next cycle while Africa member states to take a lead in implementation, there was decreased implementation of the existing projects and payment of annual subscription by member states had fallen to 20%. Kenya was represented by Prof. Walter Oyawa, Director General-NACOSTI and AFRA National Coordinator Kenya, and Mr. Stephen Situma, Senior Research Analyst - Physical, Industrial and Energy Sciences.

The AFRA focal point Ms. Margaret Mashingila reported that in 2019, there was an increase in budgetary allocation to AFRA projects, gender disparity in the expert missions to AFRA related activities in Africa and coordination between Project Management officers, Counter Parts and Scientific coordinators. She noted that there was a decrease in funds absorption as well as member state contributions and her office was working to initiate more RDC and collaboration among the AFRA members and other regional IAEA organization especially on Nuclear Science Knowledge Management. She urged the AFRA National Coordinators to implement projects and encourage member states to recruit experts and develop Human Resource Development plans in Nuclear Knowledge Management. Kenya stands to benefit from ongoing AFRA projects and the 19 approved 21-23 Regional program Framework projects in which Human health and nutrition, Energy and planning Climate change areas have been added. Promotion of Nuclear science and Technology through capacity building of member states through regional and member states will be used in implementation of STEM-NST program among secondary schools. Kenya was proposed to host pilot the pilot program.

Key recommendations of the two-day meeting were;

  • AFRA to create its own database of AFRA NCs,
  • nominate female and young scientists and technicians to participate in AFRA events and initiate the call for applications for the Recognition of RDCs in new and emerging field of activities,
  • promotion of partnerships with non-traditional donor countries,
  • the private Sector and foundations to complement AFRA Fund.

State Parties will be required to fill and submit the new online Human Resource Development questionnaire submitted by HLSC, State Parties to develop national Human Resource Development Plans and STEM-NST to be rolled out at regional and member state level and there will be piloting of the STEM-NST program from 2021.