Executive Secretary

Statements

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BRIEFING BY: THE EXECUTIVE SECRETARY OF THE AFRICAN COMMISSION ON NUCLEAR ENERGY (AFCONE)

MR. ENOBOT AGBORAW

TO THE: African Union 1127TH HYBRID MEETING OF THE PEACE AND SECURITY COUNCIL

FRIDAY, 16 DECEMBER 2022

ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA

Your Excellency, Ambassador,

Victor Adeleke, Chairman of the 1127th meeting of the Peace and Security Council,

Your Excellency, Ambassador Bankole Adeoye, the African Union Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security,

Your Excellencies, Members of the Peace and Security Council,

Your Excellency, Dr. Robert Floyd, Executive Secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO)
Distinguished Participants,

Ladies and Gentlemen.

It is an honour for me to brief the Peace and Security Council of the African Union, about the activities of the African Commission of Nuclear Energy (AFCONE), as they pertain to peace, security and development in Africa in particular, and globally.

The African Commission on Nuclear Energy (AFCONE) was established in 2009 to serve as the Secretariat of the African Nuclear Weapon Free Zone Treaty (The Treaty of Pelindaba). The Treaty of Pelindaba was negotiated by the Organization of African Unity (OAU), and the African Union is the depository of the Treaty. AFCONE is the nuclear arm of the African Union.

The mandate of AFCONE includes:

As AFCONE’s mandate is being executed within a political and legislative framework that is overseen by the African Union Commission (AUC), it is important that AFCONE conducts its activities in alignment with the overall vision and objectives of the African Union for the entire continent. To this end, AFCONE prioritizes close and regular engagement with the AUC and AU organs.

I would like to recall the resolution taken during the 3rd African Union Commission Ministerial Meeting on Education, Science & Technology that was held in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) in December 2019, when the African Union mandated AFCONE to develop programmes to promote the use of nuclear energy for sustainable development, and to carryout capacity building, education and training activities for the safe and secure use of nuclear energy.

Priority areas:

1) Nuclear Power/Bridging the energy gap in Africa

In order to achieve many of the objectives under the African Union’s Agenda 2063, energy is essential. At the moment, lack of energy is arguable the main impediment to African development, as only 20% of the continent’s population have access to electricity. This challenge is compounded by the fact that global climate and environmental concerns do not favour the development of fossil fuels which have been the mainstay of energy production in many developing countries. Global focus and trends are now on low carbon energy sources, including renewables and nuclear energy in particular. Over a dozen African countries have indicated interest in including nuclear power in their energy mixes, and Egypt started construction of a new nuclear power plant in August this year.

The good news is that new developments in nuclear power technology, in particular the Small Modular Reactors (SMR), for the first time in history, offer the possibility for developing countries without advanced industrial infrastructure to acquire safe and secure nuclear power, and to provide electricity to all their citizens at a cost that is affordable to every African country. Coordination of this effort to bridge the energy gap in Africa is currently AFCONE’s flagship project. AFCONE is strongly promoting a regional approach to the development of nuclear power, in order that African countries can pool their human, technological and legislative resources to accelerate the process and to achieve the optimum outcomes for all African countries.

2) Uranium mining:

20% of the world’s uranium production is from Africa. Uranium mining is likely to play a very important role in the global energy landscape in the medium to long term. For example, the war in Ukraine and recent geopolitical tensions are factors that could potentially affect world nuclear trade and the supply of uranium. In October 2022, AFCONE undertook a working visit to Namibia, the second largest Uranium producer in the world. The purpose of the visit was to explore ways in which AFCONE could facilitate cooperation between Africa’s uranium producers, to explore strategies for improving production, profit and regional development, and very importantly to consider how Africa could play a significant role in ensuring global energy security.

Apart from uranium, African mineral production in general is critical to addressing the global climate emergency as over 30% of the world’s mineral deposits exist in Africa, including the minerals needed in green and renewable energy technologies. 70% of the Lithium and cobalt used in Lithium batteries that support renewable energy technologies are found in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zimbabwe. Yet, less than 5% of global investments in renewable energy is in Africa. Hence, AFCONE has approach the African Union Development Agency, AUDA-NEPAD, to cooperate on mining in general within the framework of AU master plan for mineral resource management. This cooperation between AFCONE and NEPAD would be important both from economic and security perspectives, and it would be necessary for both AFCONE and NEPAD to consult closely with the AUC-DPAPS.

3) Health

70% of Africans are currently without access to radiotherapy. Since August 2022, AFCONE has been closely collaborating with Africa’s premiere nuclear technology company, the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (NECSA). One of the focuses of AFCONE’s current cooperation with NECSA is on how NECSA’s expertise in the production of medical isotopes could be exported to other African countries to improve access to radiotherapy for cancer Treatment. AFCONE is already facilitating cooperation efforts between South Africa and Namibia on the production of medical isotopes.

4) Partnerships

To enable African countries to fully participate and benefit from nuclear energy opportunities, AFCONE strives to establish partnerships with international organizations and other nuclear industry entities that it deems can support the utilization of nuclear energy for peace and development in Africa. AFCONE has concluded several MoUs addressing all of AFCONE’s thematic areas, as stipulated in the Treaty of Pelindaba.

For example, AFCONE has established Practical Arrangements for cooperation with the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO). The purpose of the cooperation is inter alia, to support each other in achieving the objectives of their mandates, supporting CTBT African States Signatories in areas such as, academic, technical and scientific research, capacity-development, and the advancement of non-proliferation, in particular, as it pertains to the Prohibition of Testing of Nuclear Explosive Devices in Africa, as stipulated in Article 5 of the Treaty of Pelindaba.

5) Civil Applications of Nuclear Energy

AFCONE plays an important role in promoting civil nuclear applications in Africa, through fostering regional and inter-regional cooperation, and advising countries on the design, development and implementation of projects.

Civil nuclear applications include applications in areas such as health, mining, water resources, industry, education and research, electricity generation and agriculture, among others.

All of these civil nuclear applications are important drivers for the socioeconomic development and energy security of African countries.

AFCONE is exploring with the AUC, arrangements whereby AFCONE may unambiguously function as the nuclear arm of the African Union, providing backstopping for nuclear cooperation involving the African Union.

Furthermore, in line with this year’s African Union theme of “Nutrition & Food Security”, AFCONE intends to have a side event during the February 2023 African Union Summit to highlight the various benefits
of civil nuclear applications, particularly how nuclear applications in agriculture could enhance food security in Africa.

6) Training & Capacity Building

To effectively harness and benefit from the civil applications of nuclear energy, trained and qualified personnel would be needed throughout the nuclear energy ecosystem, particularly in basic technical skills. AFCONE has established partnerships with regional technology regional centres of excellence, is involved in in trying to establish a virtual nuclear university for Africa, is looking to enter into partnerships with African universities and institutions, and is cooperating with international capacity building providers, to ensure that Africans acquire and sustain capacity in all the technical skills required to fully harness nuclear energy.

7) Non-Proliferation:

Promoting non-proliferation is the central role of AFCONE, and it is a very important role, because it creates the enabling environment that allows African countries to participate in international cooperation and trade related to the civil uses of nuclear energy. AFCONE advances non-proliferation in Africa, mainly through its implementation of the Treaty of Pelindaba, through encouraging African countries to conclude and implement safeguards agreements with the IAEA, through encouraging African States to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), including the establishment of CTBTO National Data Centres in all African countries, as well as encouraging African States to develop appropriate national legislative frameworks, and adhere to other multilateral nuclear related arrangements.

AFCONE is also promoting the establishment of new Nuclear Weapons Free Zones around the world, such as in the Middle East; and making efforts to advance the universalization of the Treaty of Pelindaba.

8) Nuclear safety and security

The anticipated development of nuclear power in Africa will naturally come with concerns about nuclear safety and security.
While multilateral nuclear safety and security activities are being undertaken in Africa, they are not overseen by, or on behalf of the African Union. AFCONE is taking steps to bridge this gap regarding these peace and security sensitive areas of nuclear safety and security. For example, AFCONE has initiated negotiation with European Union entities to have involvement in CBRN (i.e. Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear) centres in Africa that are financed by the European Union and operated by the United Nations without oversight by any entity reporting to the African Union.

AFCONE is also currently negotiating an MoU with Morocco’s National Center for Energy and Nuclear Science and Technology (CNESTEN) on establishing the centre as an African regional collaborating centre for nuclear safety and security.

The main nuclear security issues in Africa include the handling of radioactive sources, and illicit trafficking of radioactive and nuclear materials. In this regard, it is worth noting that the nickel and cobalt ores mined in Africa, particularly in the DRC tend to have uranium contents higher than that in actual uranium ores mined elsewhere in the world. This raises issues of illicit trafficking and nuclear proliferation, not only in Africa, but globally as well.

Under Article 10 of the Treaty of Pelindaba, each Party undertakes to apply measures of physical protection equivalent to those provided for in the Convention on Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM). There are currently 25 African States that either not yet party to the CPPNM or have not ratified its amendment, the CPPNM/A. AFCONE is cooperating with the African Center for Science and International Security (AFRICSIS) to advance the universalization of the CPPNM in Africa.
Further on nuclear safety and security, AFCONE has been reaching out to the Forum of Nuclear Regulatory Bodies in Africa (FNRBA) to either integrate the FNRBA into AFCONE, or to develop a Memorandum of Understanding to enhance cooperation.

9) Raising awareness & Nuclear Diplomacy

AFCONE is actively pursuing opportunities to raise awareness about nuclear energy, to foster a positive image of nuclear energy in civil society, and encouraging and advancing common African positions on nuclear matters.

These efforts are being executed mainly through outreach visits to African countries, engagement with African diplomatic missions, social media platforms and Press briefings.

AFCONE is working hard towards advancing Africa’s voice in such global nuclear forums related to non-proliferation, disarmament, and Trade. The failure of the recent 10th NPT review Conference Review Conference to reach full consensus has put pressure not only on Africa, but on the entire world to intensify efforts to save the global non-proliferation regime. The demise of the global non-proliferation regime world will plunge the world into insecurity, and increase the likelihood of international hostilities. AFCONE in its unique role to facilitate regional and inter-regional nuclear cooperation is exploring strategies to strengthen and advance a common African nuclear diplomacy to uphold the non-proliferation regime.

AFCONE would like to reiterate its readiness to support African States in strengthening and reinforcing their participation in global nuclear cooperation and interactions, within the framework of the Treaty of Pelindaba and other relevant multilateral arrangements.

In order not to miss any developments or activities in the nuclear – political landscape that could be of benefit to the socioeconomic development and political stature of African countries, AFCONE’s medium to long terms plans include affiliation to Vienna, Austria, to monitor activities at the multilateral nuclear hubs of Vienna (CTBTO & IAEA) and Geneva (UNODA & ICAN). AFCONE also plans (with the help of the African Union) to establish a liaison office in Addis Ababa in order to be able to closely monitor and follow political events that are relevant to advancing AFCONE’s objectives in Africa.

Mr. Chairman, thank you for the invitation to be present AFCONE’s activities to the Peace and Security Council today. Excellencies,
Distinguished participants,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
thank you for your attention.