Russia's Growing Influence in African Nuclear Energy

Blessing Edem
April 19, 2018

Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2018


Fig. 1: Koeberg Power Plant. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Post-colonial African countries have taken great strides in their attempts to develop and break into markets that are traditionally dominated by the western world. A major effort towards such African nations increasing their global relevance is the acquisition of nuclear energy. Although the interest in nuclear energy is meant to demonstrate their independent strength, the overwhelming involvement from Russia in these nuclear deals with African nations exemplifies that Russia is the one holding in a major stake in this conversation.

African Nuclear Energy Partnerships with Russia

South Africa great controversy ensued throughout the country as it was revealed that South African and Russia signed a secret deal for the construction of a nuclear reactor. [1] South Africa has had interest in Nuclear energy, Fig. 1 shows South Africa's Koeberg Nuclear Power Plant, for multiple years, but there had been push back on expanding South Africa's involvement in nuclear energy because the new reactor is estimated to cost more than $73 billion. [1] Several politicians who opposed South Africa's involvement in nuclear energy were fired a week before this deal was made, which calls into question the possible corruption involved in this deal. There are South African political officials who deny the validity or existence of this deal with Rosatom, but sources from the South African environmental organization Earthlife Africa believe this deal is in place. [1]

In contrast to South Africa's deal, Egypt made a public deal with Russia at a signing ceremony in Cairo. Russia and Egypt are building North Africa's first nuclear power plant with a $21 billion deal. The project is projected to end in 2028 or 2029 and Russia is providing a loan for construction costs. [2] Egypt views this as a historical moment for Egypt as the second largest energy consumer in Africa, but this also grossly increases Russia's influence in the Middle East.

The state run nuclear corporation Rosatom has business in as many as 20 countries, and another addition to that list of countries is Uganda. The Ugandan and Russian governments have signed a memorandum of understanding, expecting an official agreement to be signed in June 2018. The Ugandan government states that it will use uranium reserves to generate electricity. [3]

Southwest African nation, Namibia, has been strengthening its relationship with Russia recently. Namibia has 7% of the world's uranium reserves. Namibia has been looking to nuclear energy to provide a solution for their cutbacks on electricity imports form South Africa. To further explore the possibilities of nuclear energy Namibia has been in talks with the Russian government. [4]

Russia's influence in Africa spans for beyond these countries and beyond the continent of Africa. Just in these few cases it is clear that Russia is able to capitalize on countries' desires for Nuclear energy and their lack of infrastructure to build their nuclear power on their own. This provides Russia with an immense opportunity to continually expand its power globally.

© Blessing Edem. The author warrants that the work is the author's own and that Stanford University provided no input other than typesetting and referencing guidelines. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] "South Africa's Controversial Nuclear Power Plans," Deutsche Welle, 4 Jul 17.

[2] S. El Wardany, E. Mezneva, and A. L. Wahba, "Russia, Egypt Sign Deal to Construct Nuclear Power Plant," Deutsche Welle, 11 Dec 17.

[3] "Russia Likely to Win Bid for Uganda's Nuclear Energy Plans," Uganda Business News, 18 Oct 17.

[4] H. Shindondoloa-Mote, "Uranium Mining in Namibia," Labor Resource and Research Institute, Feb 2009