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The National Nuclear Institutions (NNIs) in Africa were founded by Act, which mandate them to be responsible for specific matters concerning the peaceful use of nuclear technology as part of the overall objectives of the Atomic Energy Commissions or equivalent organizations.

The main objective of NNIs is to promote the peaceful uses of nuclear technology in applied research and technical education, and to ensure the safety and health of its personnel who by virtue of their work could be exposed to ionizing radiation.

NNIs are basically funded by their governments with some additional input from the IAEA and other donors. The budget is usually used to cover the salaries of the staff and to establish the basic infrastructure including laboratory facilities, premises and the legal frameworks, and to train the staff in nuclear techniques for safe and efficient use of ionizing radiation.

At present, most of the AFRA Member States have established Atomic Energy Commissions (AECs) or equivalent organizations and National Nuclear Institutions (NNIs) endowed with basic infrastructure for the utilization of peaceful applications of nuclear techniques. This includes nine research reactor facilities and associated laboratories in seven African countries, accelerators, cyclotrons and irradiation facilities. Several countries have operational radiation protection authorities to regulate the peaceful use of nuclear applications.

The available infrastructure and expertise are however not fully utilized and most of the AECs are still not fully integrated into the national programmes and processes for socio-economic development. Some of them still operate in isolation of the new realities and imperatives that are shaping the economies and developmental strategies of today. Only a few have adapted their strategies and programmes to answer the most pressing needs of national end-users and made successful attempts by extending the range of their products to reach international markets.

Furthermore, the lack of renewed interest coupled with the shifting of Government priorities resulted in a severe decline in funding, which has made it impossible for most of the African NNIs to achieve the objectives for which they were established. In addition, the shortage of funding and lack of interest have had a bearing on these institutions including loss of qualified staff and reduction in scientific programmes. This has in turn affected the relevance and credibility of these institutions and weakened the relationship with the donor community as well as the perception of the general public. For the NNIs to survive in this uncertain environment, it is imperative for them to adapt their strategies, mindsets and attitudes to the new realities of today’s global markets. Fundamental to this change is the formulation and implementation of realistic Strategic Action Plans (SAPs) to guide NNIs’ efforts to realize their visions and strategies in the most efficient and cost-effective manner.

This document provides a framework for NNIs to initiate the process of sustaining their growth and development, with particular emphasis on practical guidelines and lessons learned from the experience of countries that have embarked on this process. It also provides measurable indicators to enable decision-makers to monitor and benchmark progress in accordance with the developed Strategic Action Plans.

While recognizing the limitations of certain indicators, the document places much emphasis on macro-management of NNIs taking into consideration the importance of good governance, accountability and institutional capability. These features have been identified by the UN system as well as NEPAD as being fundamental to sustainable development.

II. CHALLENGES FACING NNIs

The majority of African NNIs presently rely mainly on governmental support that has been declining over the last decade because of changes in national priorities. This trend is not affecting Africa only, but also many other NNIs worldwide. In addition to this major challenge, other important challenges facing NNIs in Africa include:

                        i) Declining donor support for the promotion and development of nuclear science and technology in Africa as a result of general “donor fatigue” and re-direction of aid to other sector;

                        ii) Declining relevance, public perception and credibility at national level;

                        iii) Lack of clear vision, strategic plans and managerial skills;

                        iv) Lack of enforced legislative framework in some countries;

                        v) Lack of good institutional governance including accountability and auditing systems.

 

Moreover, NNIs should build their own capacity to become less dependent on external funding by establishing partnerships to stimulate growth and development and to direct national efforts towards income-generating activities. NNIs realize that they must critically evaluate their activities, core competencies and structures with the aim of streamlining and re-focusing these to limit expenditure, be more responsive to end-user needs and increase their participation in national development efforts.

Particular emphasis should be placed on activities with immediate impact on socio-economical conditions of the public at large and which are likely to be sustainable in the long run. The modality of Technical Cooperation between Developing Countries (TCDC) should be used to promote self-reliance through optimal use of regional infrastructure, thereby leading to Economic Cooperation between Developing Countries (ECDC).