[Nairobi, Monday, September 4, 2023] – In a ceremony that showcased Africa’s commitment to harnessing the potential of nuclear energy, the winners of RePlanet Africa’s inaugural Essay Writing Competition on nuclear power were honored for their depth, research and insightful perspectives on the subject.
Organized by RePlanet Africa, the competition sought to start a conversation on and encourage innovative thinking regarding the role of nuclear energy in Africa’s future and her efforts to attain SDG #7 on access to clean and affordable energy and SDG #9 to promote sustainable industrialisation.
No of participants
The essay competition drew 128 participants from 60 universities, in 13 countries from across Africa. Mike Felix Okoth Ochieng’, a 5th year student of Electrical and Electronics Engineering at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology in Kenya emerged top.
Connor Dalen, a first year student of Physical Sciences at the University of Pretoria in South Africa was the first runners-up while Chiahanam Joseph, a 5th year student of Medicine and Surgery at the University of Nigeria came in as the second runners-up.
Kiggala Jessy Sean, a 4th year student of Bachelor of Petroleum Geoscience and Production at Uganda’s Makerere University came in 4th while Sandra Afwande Olang’o, a 4th year student of BSc in Radiography at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology came in at 5th position.
Uganda, Nigeria and Kenya recorded the highest entries at 38, 36 and 33 respectively. Other countries that participated in the competition include Ghana with (6), Burkina Faso (1), Egypt (1), Ethiopia (1), Liberia (1) and Malawi (4). Others are Sierra Leone (3), South Africa (2), Tanzania (1) and Zambia (1).
While recognizing the winners and the initiative by RePlanet Africa, several speakers emphasized the importance of nuclear power in Africa’s energy mix. Representing the CS Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Climate Change and Forestry The Chief Guest Hon. Soipan Tuya, Nema Vice Chair Ms Sophie Takaria Matura , described nuclear energy as perhaps “Africa’s last best bet to addressing climate change and powering sustainable economic development”.
She highlighted the potential benefits of nuclear power including enhanced energy security, baseload power, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and increased access to electricity for under-served communities.
“Almost 600 million Africans lack access to reliable energy sources and we know that nuclear power offers a viable solution to the continent’s energy deficit without exacerbating the negative effects of climate change – thanks to its low carbon footprint ,” said Hon Tuya.
Karolina L. Gylfe, the Replanet Secretary General lauded the initiative as crucial to driving a conversation around nuclear energy and the need to transition the African economies from running on fossil fuels to clean energy.
Prof Charles Kibanani Ngome, The RePlanet Africa Board Chairperson and Board member of the National Environment Management Authority (Nema), said through the essay writing competition, RePlanet Africa and her partners sought to empower the next generation of leaders and thinkers to take an active role in shaping Africa’s energy future.
“By fostering critical thinking and research skills, RePlanet Africa seeks to cultivate a generation of individuals who are equipped to tackle the energy challenges of the 21st Century,” Prof Ngome said.
According to Patricia Nanteza, the RePlanet Africa Coordinator, the competition was designed to encourage and promote a deeper understanding and perception of nuclear energy’s role in Africa’s sustainable development.
“Through this competition, we provided an ideal platform for university students to delve into the subject matter, contribute to the ongoing discourse on sustainable energy solutions and showcase their research skills, critical thinking and innovative ideas,” Ms Nanteza said, adding that by participating in this competition, students contribute to Africa’s energy sector while competing for recognition and valuable prizes.
Tour of nuclear plant
The winners were carefully selected by a distinguished panel of judges that compromised experts drawn from the energy sector, climate change as well as enthusiasts of sustainable development from across the globe. They assessed the essays on originality, depth of research, innovation, relationship to climate change and link to sustainable development.
The winner and their collaborating lecturer will enjoy a 3-day trip to a nuclear power plant in South Africa. The First and 2nd Runners-up won laptops while the 4th and 5th winners won smartphones. The top 5 essays will be published on the RePlanet Africa website and all 128 participants will become honorary members of RePlanet Africa.
The event brought together senior government officers, esteemed experts, policymakers, and scholars and researchers and students with a common goal: to propel Africa towards a cleaner, more secure, and economically viable future.