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AFRA Representatives Convene the 31st Annual Meeting, Ahead of the IAEA General Conference


More than 60 counterparts, coordinators and representatives from the region attended the day-long meeting. (Photo: O. Yusuf/IAEA)

The annual Meeting of Representatives to the African Regional Cooperative Agreement for Research, Development and Training related to Nuclear Science and Technology (AFRA) (MoR) was convened on 11 September 2020 to finalize strategic documents and approve programme priorities which will inform technical cooperation (TC) activities in Africa for the coming years.

Attended by IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi and by more than 70 high-level representatives of State Parties, donor countries and partner organizations and Secretariat staff, the virtual meeting endorsed the recommendations of the 31st AFRA Technical Working Group including the mid-term review of the AFRA Regional Strategy Cooperative Framework (RCF) and the AFRA Regional Programme (RPN).

Each year, since the 1990 entry into force of the AFRA Agreement, representatives of the States Parties have met on the margins of the IAEA General Conference to explore how best to design, coordinate and implement regional projects to enhance the contribution of nuclear science to development in the region.

The deliberations and discussions held throughout the day-long teleconference also benefitted from contributions made by the attending Chairpersons of AFRA Committees and AFRA National Coordinators, and from interventions by the representatives of the Vienna-Based African Group, a coalition comprised of African representatives to the IAEA.

Despite physical distancing and other health precautions, the annual meeting was nevertheless held virtually on 11 September. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

Zizamele Mbambo, Deputy Director General for Nuclear Energy in South Africa’s Department of Energy and outgoing Chairperson of AFRA, spoke of the digital signing of a new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between AFRA and the African Commission on Nuclear Energy on 9 September. Mbambo said: “I would like to extend my thanks to all AFRA National Coordinators for the innovative measures they undertook throughout the ongoing pandemic to ensure that AFRA activities can continue to be implemented, with some adjustments, despite the spread of COVID-19.”

Signed by Mbambo on behalf of AFRA and countersigned by African Commission on Nuclear Energy  Executive Secretary Messaoud Baaliouamer, the new MoU provides a framework for enhanced cooperation between the two institutions to improve the quality, effectiveness and availability of nuclear applications in the region.

In his opening remarks, Director General Grossi noted the impact of the pandemic, and highlighted the IAEA’s actions. “In response to urgent requests for COVID-19 assistance from across the world, we mounted the largest operation in the history of the IAEA, shipping more than 1,200 consignments of equipment for virus detection and diagnosis… to some 43 AFRA members,” he said. “The Agency has worked hard to maintain essential services to Member States. As Director General, I will continue to do everything to ensure that we provide as much assistance to Member States in battling COVID-19 as we possibly can.”

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi delivered the opening remarks to the 31st AFRA Meeting of Representatives. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

In Africa, as in other regions, the IAEA can be called upon to provide emergency support and technical guidance to countries following natural disasters, such as earthquakes and floods.

“Multiple emergencies have tested our mettle in recent times. However, the resilience of our partnerships and the excellent cooperation that has developed over the years, has allowed us to respond quickly in the AFRA region,” said Najat Mokhtar, Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Nuclear Science and Applications.

“After the floods in Mozambique that killed hundreds of thousands of cattle last year, we were able to support the in-country laboratories. And in my own country, Morocco, local scientists implemented a vaccination campaign to halt the spread of foot and mouth disease last year,” she said.

Meeting participants endorsed the 2019 AFRA Annual report, which highlights the delivery of last year’s regional programme and explores recommendations to further improve delivery and performance. The mid-term review of the RCF for 2019-2023, as well as all project designs submitted for implementation during the forthcoming 2022-2023 TC Cycle, were also endorsed at the meeting

In closing, Shaukat Abdulrazak, Director of the Technical Cooperation Division for Africa, expressed his appreciation to Representatives of AFRA State Parties, donor countries, partner organizations, and the Vienna-based African Group for their continued and enthusiastic support to the AFRA programme.

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