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Nuclear science and technology to boost Zambia’s economy

According to a recent survey conducted by Trading Economics , 7.79% of Zambians are unemployed, and the youth unemployment rate remains the most alarming issue. Youth make up almost two-thirds of the country’s working-age population and almost one-quarter of them are unemployed, according to a World Bank estimate. One of the reasons to it is the lack of education and training that would match current and especially future industry needs.

Zambia’s government is aware of the challenge, and has promised to boost employment rate in general, and the number of jobs for young people in particular. One project that government has embarked to promote job creation is the construction of the Centre of Nuclear Science and Technology (CNST) in Chongwe (rural Lusaka).

The centre will boast a wide range of applications of radiation technologies in medicine, agriculture and industry, which includes a technological industry platform to enhance national industry development. The CNST also promises to promote the enhancement of national education and science as well as the reduction of unemployment through the training of highly qualified experts in various fields.

This is an unprecedented case when the country with no record in the field, so quickly moved to the development of nuclear energy. Although Zambia is only at a preparatory stage for the start of the national atomic programme, a highly qualified workforce is the key to its successful implementation, along with the creation of the nuclear infrastructure, and the introduction of appropriate changes in the country’s legislation.

“The establishment of the Centre of Nuclear Science and Technology (CNST) will be useful for training of personnel for nuclear programmes. It is also important to note that there will be other resultant benefits such as increased foreign exchange earnings, creation of employment opportunities, gaining access to the international markets and increased competitiveness and viability of Zambian industries, – says the Minister of Higher Education, Hon. Professor Nkandu Luo.

“The government has started capacity building for nuclear technology by empowering local universities as well as sending Zambians to study nuclear science abroad to enhance skilled man-power for the project”.

The nuclear industry, bolstered by the need for carbon-free energy, is on its way up, and nuclear engineering is considered as a solid career path. Being a pioneer in peaceful use of nuclear energy, for more than 70 years Russia remains one of the world’s top destinations for training in nuclear engineering.

Russian National Research Nuclear University MEPhI in Obninsk (Central Russia) is the key partner of Rosatom in nuclear academic training. It is one of the most reputed and highly ranked universities in nuclear engineering not only in Russia, but also worldwide. Today more than 1500 foreign students from 57 countries study there, including such sub-Saharan countries as Zambia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia and South Africa.

Zambia has already sent 60 people to Russia to study nuclear science.

Edward Msiska, a Zambian student at MEPhI, testifies:

“My parents were very supportive about the idea of me coming to study in Russia. They helped me to choose the course that turned out to be nuclear power engineering. They wanted to find something related to what is going to be constructed in a very short period of time.”

Zambian nuclear science student Edward Msiska.

Other student from Zambia, Richard Vlahakis adds:

“The educational process is difficult, but we work hard as we understand how important it is for our country”.

The graduates of MEPhI will become a part of international nuclear family. For instance, all 35 Turkish specialists who successfully completed their education in Russia are engaged in construction of Akkuyu NPP, the first nuclear power plant project in Turkey. As for Zambian students, they will get a chance to show their potential at the Center of Nuclear Science and Technology (CNST) and assist the government with implementation of the national nuclear programme.

In spring this year, Zambian diplomats met with Zambian students that currently study nuclear technologies in Russia and were pleased with their academic achievements. On this occasion, the First Secretary of the Embassy of Zambia in Russian Federation Simwanza Chingwa commented: “It is very important for us to cooperate with Russia in the sphere of nuclear power. I hope that in the near future I will see a commemorative plaque dedicated to the graduation of students from Zambia on the wall of MEPhI.

Source: Langmead & Baker