NEA mission to Ghana: Mentoring the next generation, discussing nuclear energy programmes in Africa

NEA International Mentoring Workshop, Ghana

Participants of the NEA International Mentoring Workshop in Accra, Ghana

Ghana's ascent: A pioneering hub for nuclear advancements in Africa

In recent years, Ghana has established itself as a hub of progress in the field of nuclear technology within the African continent. Ghana's commitment to sustainable development and energy security has led to the establishment of the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC) and the construction of the Ghana Research Reactor-1 (GHARR-1). These initiatives not only contribute to Ghana's energy needs but also position the country as a key player in nuclear research and technology across the continent.

In this context, an NEA delegation led by Director-General William D. Magwood, IV made the NEA’s first official visit to Ghana during 1-6 November 2023. Ghana is one of the most advanced countries in Africa in terms of its progress toward establishing a nuclear energy programme. The country is in the process of selecting a vendor to establish its first nuclear energy capacity as part of its plans to assure reliable, carbon-free energy for the future. As the NEA is enhancing its outreach to Africa, this visit provided information and engagements that will be essential in guiding future activities.

The NEA delegation met with Matthew Opoku Prempeh, Minister of Energy; Kwaku Afriyie, Minister of Environment, Science, Technology, and Innovation; Samuel Boakye Dampare, GAEC Director General; Nii Kwashie Allotey, Director-General of the Nuclear Regulatory Authority of Ghana; and Eric Nkansah, Director-General of the Ghana Education Service. Director-General Magwood also visited the University of Ghana, where he met with Joseph Richmond, Dean of the School of Nuclear and Allied Sciences, and discussed NEA’s work with the students and faculty members. Finally, the Director-General had a brief discussion with Ghanaian President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo who attended an IFNEC-sponsored dinner event on 1 November 2023.

In addition, the NEA supported the IFNEC Ministerial Conference, held on 1-3 November 2023. This event gathered high-level officials, nuclear industry representatives and key stakeholders to discuss regional and international co-operation and policies needed to advance nuclear energy programmes in Africa. During the conference, Director-General Magwood moderated a discussion with Rumina Velshi, former President and CEO of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, and David A. Wright, Commissioner of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The session was focused on the harmonisation of regulatory requirements and practices and explored how these efforts might impact newcomer countries. 

Director-General Magwood also had a meeting with Enobot Agboraw, Executive Secretary of the African Commission on Nuclear Energy (AFCONE), the autonomous Pan-African organisation that supports regional co-operation for safe and secure peaceful applications of nuclear science and technology. AFCONE and NEA will explore potential co-operation in the future.

Ghana’s new ambitions and activities in this sector will require a growing pipeline of talent, making it important to address gender disparities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). To help with this challenge, the Agency co-operated with the GAEC and IFNEC to host the NEA International Mentoring Workshop for Ghanaian female high-school students. This event, Obaa, you are the future: Inspiring young females in STEM careers for a better tomorrow”, brought together over 45 promising female students from various regions in Ghana on 4-5 November 2023.

The students were welcomed by NEA Director-General Magwood and GAEC Director-General Samuel Boakye Dampare, setting an encouraging tone for the sessions ahead. The event title, “Obaa, you are the future”, uses the word for “woman” in Twi, a dialect of the Akan language spoken in some parts of Ghana. Over two days, high-school students had a chance to hear from and interact with Ghanaian and international women leaders in the nuclear energy and STEM fields:

  • Aleshia Duncan, Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Nuclear Energy Policy and Cooperation, Office of Nuclear Energy, US Department of Energy, and IFNEC Chair
  • Elsie A. B. Effah Kaufmann, Dean of School of Engineering Sciences of the University of Ghana and Management Board Member of the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission
  • Rumina Velshi, former President and CEO, Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, Canada
  • Olivia Opare, Director of Science Education Unit, Ghana Education Service
  • Fiona Rayment, Nuclear Energy Advisor, National Nuclear Laboratory, United Kingdom
  • Mary Boadu, Chief Research Scientist, Ghana Atomic Energy Commission
  • Lydia Mosi, Deputy Director, Administration, West African Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens
  • Rebecca Tadesse, Head, Division of Radioactive Waste Management and Decommissioning, NEA
  • Irene Opoku-Ntim, Research Scientist, Ghana Atomic Energy Commission
  • Lisa Marshall, Assistant Extension Professor and Director of Outreach, Retention and Engagement, North Carolina State University
  • Michelle Scott, International Policy

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NEA International Mentoring Workshop participants engage with their mentors: Rumina Velshi, former President and CEO of CNSC (left); Irene Opoku-Ntim, Research Scientist, Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (right); Fiona Rayment, Nuclear Energy Advisor, National Nuclear Laboratory (centre)

2023 was a very active year for NEA International Mentoring Workshops and this event is the last planned for the year. The NEA organised this and other such events because of the importance of diversity and inclusion in STEM fields and the need to encourage the next generation of women to pursue careers in science and technology. By creating a supportive environment and fostering mentorship relationships, such efforts are addressing the barriers and stereotypes that have hindered female participation in these disciplines.

See also