Saturday, July 13, 2024

Russia looks to work with Ethiopia on nuclear power


One of the oldest diplomatic partners of Ethiopia, Russia has come again to discuss assisting with nuclear development and canceling debt.
The official diplomatic relationship, which is mostly positive, has just hit the milestone of 120 years meaning they have been working together since the King Minilik II era.
During the Derg regime, Russia played a very active role in supporting Ethiopia. . Besides military and security support the Soviet government offered technical support for Ethiopian nonmilitary organizations and scholarships for over 32,000 students at USSR higher education facilities.
In the previous regime Moscow was involved in the development of mega projects in Ethiopia like a hydro power plant, irrigation, and mining, including the development of natural gas at Kalub, and manufacturing centers such as a tractor assembly in Adama.
During the Derg era Russia also canceled a huge amount of debt. Later on, about 17 years ago, Russia annulled close to USD 5 billion. In 2005 Russia also canceled an additional USD 1.1 billion.
“We have talked about several issues including bilateral, investment and trade, and regional issues,” Workneh Gebeyehu (PhD), Minister of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) said at the joint press conference with his counterpart Sergey Lavrov of Russia.
He appreciated Russia’s decision to cancel more debt. Over a decade ago the two countries talked about writing off the remaining  debt, which is USD 160 million. .
Last year Tedros Adhanom (PhD), the former MoFA chief, told Russian media that the two governments have agreed that these funds will be used in the framework of ‘debts in exchange for development’ for funding projects in Ethiopia with the participation of Russian companies.
Workneh said that the two countries have also agreed to work on nuclear power development.
In the past representatives of Russia’s State Atomic Energy Corporation, Rosatom, held extensive negotiations with their Ethiopian counterparts on joint projects in developing nuclear energy for peaceful purposes including construction of the Ethiopian Centre for nuclear science and technology.
Lavrov said that the two sides have agreed to give an additional boost to the work of an intergovernmental commission for implementing joint projects in a number of domains such as energy including nuclear and hydro power, biological research and direct flights.
Cooperation in high-tech, science and education are other areas that the two countries will work together on, according to the diplomatic chief of Russia.
Lavrov said that Ethiopia has a functioning Russian designed research center that is nearly established as a nuclear technology center.
Hydropower engineering was recognized as one of the most promising areas of cooperation taking into consideration the activities by the Russian company, Inter RAO Export which wants to  modernize the Melka Wakena Hydropower Plant, which was initially constructed by USSR in the mid-1980s, and possibly to construct other power generation projects in  Ethiopia.
Ethiopian Airlines is also expected to commence a daily scheduled flight to Moscow from Addis Ababa. Experts said that this  would  be a good move since the trade relationship between  the two countries and the private sector activity from the Ethiopian side is growing. “As a single example currently Russia imports Ethiopian flowers so direct flights by Ethiopian Airlines can expand this,” an expert said.
At present a number of Russian companies operate in the country, particularly Gazprom, which leads the search for oil and gas in the North-East of the country in the region of Afar, and is also interested in gold mining.
The countries relationship started from the time of the battle of Adwa between the colonial power, Italy and Ethiopia at that time the Russian Tsar sent a Russian envoy at the request of  Minilik II, but the support reached Ethiopia after the end of the war.  Some Ethiopian students during the Soviet era still serve in  top government positions.
Ethiopia mainly exports flowers and coffee to Russia. The trade relationship between the two nations is not like the past particularly from the Russian side. In 1980s the exports from Russia to Ethiopia was worth USD 300 million, which is now significantly reduced. Now Russian investors are interested in engaging in the technology sector like automotive assembly and agriculture development.
Lavrov latest visit is his third to Ethiopia since he was assigned the  Russian chief diplomat position in 2004.

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