Nuclear Education Helps Africa to Overcome Technological Lag

Nuclear Education Helps Africa to Overcome Technological Lag

Unfavorable climate change, scarcity of sustainable energy resources, the spread of deadly diseases - how these global problems are interconnected? All these challenges for humanity are united by a common effective solution - the use of advanced nuclear technologies.

World nuclear industry is booming, and this determines the growing popularity of nuclear education. While the nuclear energy is only taking its first steps in Africa, the nuclear science is already available to African youth who want to explore this impressive area of human knowledge. African students now studying nuclear in Russia will soon become highly valuable experts in their countries.

Innovations Ready at Hand

Modern higher education is notorious for the rapid obsolescence of knowledge. An information that was new at the time a student entered the high school often turns out to be irrelevant after a few years, when he or she graduates from college or university. 

Fortunately, nuclear education is free from this fundamental problem. As nuclear technology advances rapidly and its scope of application is constantly expanding, nuclear education is always in the wake of this movement forward. The inextricable connection between science and practice ensures that a nuclear graduate will not be left without a job. No doubt, nuclear education is the elite sector of contemporary higher education.

The nuclear industry is a major customer and supplier of innovations, on which specialized scientific institutions are working. In Russia, for instance, the base university of the state corporation "Rosatom" is the National Research Nuclear University "MEPhI" in Moscow, which has an extensive network of branches in the cities where enterprises of the nuclear industry operate. Since 1942 this university keeps leading positions in the global educational sphere. Last year MePhI for the first time entered the world top 150 best universities in Round University Ranking and took second place among the Russian universities in the RUR 2020 ranking.

Nowadays MEPhI unites 11 higher educational institutions and six educational institutions of secondary vocational education, located in 17 Russian cities. 25 thousand students, including more than 1,500 foreign citizens from more than 50 countries, have the opportunity to be in permanent contact with the achievements of advanced science and its’ prominent figures. Just to mention that six Nobel laureates contributed to educational process and research at MEPhI.

Russian nuclear education has been changing as Rosatom has become a global company operating in all continents, including Africa. The Consortium of flagship universities of "Rosatom" was established in 2011 as an integral part of the program of innovative development and technological modernization of the state corporation.

This association was designed to provide educational support for “Rosatom” projects in Russia and twelve other countries. Now the Consortium includes 18 specialized universities, such as Peoples' Friendship University of Russia (RUDN) and the Tomsk Polytechnic University, training personnel for design, creation and operation of nuclear power plants. 

“Rosatom” and the Russian government attach great importance to cooperation with international organizations aimed at ensuring nuclear safety and access of all stakeholders to nuclear energy. The state corporation regularly interacts with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on educational issues. In 2016 “Rosatom” and IAEA established their first nuclear energy management school, especially useful for emerging countries in the world nuclear club seeking to develop nuclear power or other uses of the nuclear.

Knowledge and Skills Export

The Consortium of flagship universities of “Rosatom” is in charge for promoting and popularizing Russian nuclear education abroad, especially among the African nations. According to UN statistics, Africa is a continent of young people. 65% of the population is under 35 and almost 50% under 19, which means that Africa has tremendous potential to educate a new generation of scientists.

Nuclear science will receive special attention, as its technologies are able to solve many endemic problems of African energy, healthcare, agriculture and other spheres.

Since 2013 Russian universities together with “Rosatom” have been offering free education for African students. Currently, 256 foreign students from Africa, including Rwanda, Ghana, Egypt, Zambia, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia and South Africa, study at nuclear universities in Russia. 

Moreover, in 2019 “Rosatom” introduced nuclear scholarships for African students to help the next generation of African scientists and nuclear engineers to emerge. The purpose of this program is to support the interest of young Africans in nuclear research and opportunities.

Last September Russian state corporation signed a memorandum of understanding with the African Atomic Energy Commission (AFCONE). This co-operation will help to popularize nuclear education and build up personnel connections in African countries further.

“Rosatom” Centers for Nuclear Science and Technology (CNST) will provide opportunities for useful non-energy nuclear solutions in Africa. To train local employees is among the main functions of the CNSTs. In 2019 during the first Russia-Africa summit in Sochi an agreement on the construction of the nuclear center was signed by Russia and Rwanda.

Typical CNST includes a research reactor, a multipurpose irradiation center, a nuclear medicine center and a laboratory for production of radioisotopes. A wide range of scientific research can be carried out there, for example, to analyze the composition of minerals and samples of air, water and soil, to test digital technologies.

CNSTs would be a good job opportunity for those Africans who decide to turn back home after graduating from Russian nuclear universities. But for those who would prefer to stay in Russia career trajectory is also clear, as “Rosatom” offers about 1500 new jobs every year. 

The educational tasks of Russian nuclear scientists in Africa are not limited to the academic sphere. The negative perception of nuclear energy in society is most often associated with a lack of knowledge about its capabilities. Therefore, “Rosatom” is attempting great efforts to make the achievements of nuclear science familiar to a wide range of African youth.

 For example, since 2015, the Atoms for Africa youth video competition has been held on Facebook. Students and young professionals from Sub-Saharan Africa aged 18 to 30 create videos regarding the benefits of nuclear power and technology for the continent.

Best teams get the opportunity to have an incentive tour to Russian nuclear facilities. Over the five years of the competition, 36 African winners have already visited distant, but always open-hearted Russia.


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