Dr Lassina Zerbo, the Executive Secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBT), has urged African countries to remain committed to the nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) and other safety measures to protect their citizenry.
Dr Zerbo, who was speaking at a two-day experts’ meeting in Accra, to brainstorm on strengthening the NTP regime, and set the priorities for the 2020 Non-proliferation Treaty Review Conference (RevCon) to be held in April, said the programme was timely for Africa and quite critical.
He said as African countries expressed interest in enjoying the benefits of nuclear technology and its various civilian applications, they must also remember their duties and responsibilities as signatories to the Pelindaba Treaty, the CTBT and the NPT.
He encouraged the African Nuclear community to ensure that investments in nuclear technology were made in line with their international obligations as responsible states.
Dr Zerbo thanked the Norwegian Government, the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), and the CTBT for their generous support towards the meeting and its panel on NPT’s Inter-Generational Dialogue in Africa.
He said the meeting among other things, sought to bring together senior officials, practitioners and technical experts from governments, regional organisations, and think thanks in Africa to discuss the state of play ahead of the 2020 NPT RevCon from an African perspective.
It was also to encourage African nations to highlight potential opportunities to advance the NPT’s goals, identify priority commitments and actions to strengthen the peaceful uses, fissile material management, risk reduction and transparency, which would be one of the continent’s collective focus at the inter-generational dialogue.
Dr Zerbo stated that there was currently a rapid deterioration of collective norms that used to enjoy global consensus for decades, citing the unwillingness of some countries to adhere to the non-use of nuclear weapons and nuclear non-proliferation as a grave danger.
“We are heading towards a world that believes that fighting with nuclear weapons are possible and in some cases desirable,” he said.
He expressed worry over the widening gap between the nuclear and non-nuclear weapon States, saying the global order currently was highly fragmented, dispersive and increasingly ideologically driven and the situation was worsening with the deepening of great power competition, with an over prioritisation of security over development, as countries faced growing insecurity.
He said there was the need to find common grounds on the issues of nuclear proliferation and disarmament, and begin to register Africa’s strong presence at the global discussions table by building the confidence of member countries.
However, “we are experiencing a race to the hearts and minds of African countries today. Major developed powers are launching and sustaining strategic dialogues with our African countries because of our economic and demographic prospects,”Dr Zerbo said.
He said Africa had become the new frontier for energy and nuclear power investments, and that a third of the almost 30 countries in Africa including Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria and Sudan currently considering nuclear power, had already engaged the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to assess their readiness to embark on a nuclear programme.
Algeria, Tunisia, Uganda and Zambia were also considering the possibility of a similar programme, he added.
Dr Zerbo said Africa already had an illustrious record as a proud regional nuclear weapons free zone, with many of its countries including Ghana, supporting and abiding by the Pelindaba treaty which was the cornerstone of the commitment to maintain a continent free of nuclear weapons.
The establishment of the African Commission for Nuclear Energy (AFCONE), he said, was a reminder of what Africa could achieve when it worked together towards significant investments in technology and energy security.
He said it offered an extraordinary opportunity for countries to work closely together to enjoy the full benefits of nuclear energy, while minimizing the associated risks, and ensuring that investment in nuclear technology were made within a culture of transparency and accountability to overcome technological and security issues.
Dr Zerbo said nuclear investments in Africa could prompt strong nuclear Pan-Africanism if the continent chose to work to strengthen regional nuclear institutions for the benefits of all its societies.
Ms Isabella Williams, the Senior Advisor, NTI, stressed on the need for Africa to make an expressive commitment to nuclear education in order to strengthen the overall credibility of the overall global NPT regime.