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African National Liaison Officers Discuss IAEA’s Technical Cooperation Priorities, COVID-19 Assistance to Africa


Held on 6 and 7 October, the virtual meeting was convened to assess the impact of COVID-19 on both national programmes and on the regional programme. (Photo: O. Yusuf/IAEA)

National Liaison Officers (NLOs) from across Africa met virtually on 6 and 7 October to exchange experiences and to discuss pertinent issues related to the development of the 2022-2023 TC programme, as well as to the implementation of the ongoing TC programme in the Africa region against the backdrop of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“We need to think globally and act locally, and to take advantage of and use of all available means to provide for better coordination, implementation and monitoring of the regional TC programme in Africa,” said Shaukat Abdulrazak, Director of the TC Division for Africa.” Referring to the Zoonotic Disease Integrated Action (ZODIAC) initiative and the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellowship Programme, Director Abdulrazak briefed the meeting’s attendees on the launch of new initiatives and invited the participating NLOs to maximize their engagement with the latest programmes offered by the Agency.

Since the initial outbreak of COVID-19, the Division for Africa has organized and carried out events, to the extent possible and where possible through virtual means, including meetings, workshops, expert missions and training courses, as well as webinars.

Over the course of the two-day meeting, NLOs addressed important questions about the future implementation of the regional programme: Do the priority areas of Country Programme Frameworks need to be revised as a consequence of the pandemic? What effect have coronavirus-related restrictions had on the implementation of national projects? Will the regional programme need to be adjusted?

In addition to IAEA experts and Programme Management Officers and experts, 26 National Liaison Officers and Assistants, representing 22 African countries, attended the two-day event.

To answer these questions, among others, NLOs responded to an online survey conducted by the IAEA Secretariat to better understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic at the national level and to facilitate the preparation of contingency measures.

Out of 34 responses to the survey, the NLOs in half of the participating countries are presently subject to national travel restrictions, and almost all participants reported delays or obstacles in the implementation of their national programme.

“COVID-19 has greatly affected the implementation of many planned activities this year,” said Tawonga Mbale, Director of Malawi’s Department of Environmental Affairs and the country’s NLO. “Some of the affected or delayed activities include field visits, quarterly coordination meetings, the development and finalization of Country Programme Frameworks and the completion of project designs.”

However, despite pandemic-related hindrances to programme implementation, IAEA staff and national partners in Africa have taken full advantage of new platforms and channels to ensure that the delivery of IAEA assistance can continue to the extent possible.

Participants also noted the timeliness and effectiveness of IAEA emergency assistance  to support national efforts to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of this assistance, the IAEA delivered Real Time Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) detection equipment, reagents, laboratory consumables and personal protective equipment to 44 African countries and provided related virtual orientation and training. Today, the equipment is being used in multiple national diagnostic laboratories in Africa that are conducting tests to detect and manage the spread of the novel coronavirus.

38 African countries were represented in this regional meeting of National Liaison Officers and Assistants. (Photo: O. Yusuf/IAEA

“The IAEA has been proactive in assisting countries in their effort to fight against COVID-19,” said Adama Yoro Sidibe,  NLO for Mali. His comments were echoed by Jane Chinkusu, NLO for Zambia, who described the IAEA’s emergency assistance as “a game changer” in her country.

Finally, in preparation for the 2022-2023 technical cooperation cycle, the participating National Liaison Officers deliberated on issues related to the preparation of the project designs and how to ensure that the final project designs are of high quality, placing a particular emphasis on result-based management, which will facilitate the delivery of the projects’ intended outcomes. The regional TC programme for Africa was also discussed and some arrangements for the coordination  and finalisation of the design of such projects were discussed and agreed upon.

38 African countries were represented in this regional meeting of National Liaison Officers and Assistants, namely: Algeria, Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali Mauritania, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, United Republic of Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

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