The Eastern Mediterranean unties the Gordian knot of Europe’s energy dependence

Eager to show some political achievements at the postponed second Russia-Africa summit in mid-June 2023, the Russians are rushing to lay the first concrete for the second unit of the El Dabaa nuclear power plant in the Arab Republic of Egypt. Russia has signed on to build nuclear power plants in a number of African countries, but has failed to implement its agreements over the past decade.

Our monitoring and research shows that Russia and Egypt signed an intergovernmental agreement on the construction of a nuclear power plant in November 2015. The contract for the engineering, procurement and construction of the El Dabaa nuclear power plant was signed on December 31, 2016.

Rosatom Director General Alexei Likhachev and Egyptian Minister of Electricity and Renewable Energy Mohamed Shaker signed acts in Cairo on the entry into force of commercial contracts for the construction of the four-power nuclear power plant slices of El Dabaa in December 2017.

The total construction cost is set at $30 billion. The parties signed an agreement to provide Egypt with a $25 billion state export loan for the construction of the nuclear power plant which covers 85% of the work. The remaining expenses will be covered by the Egyptian side by attracting private investors. Under the agreement, Egypt must start repaying the loan, which is granted at 3% per annum, in October 2029.

El-Dabaa is Egypt’s first nuclear power plant and Rosatom’s first major project in Africa. Egyptian media quoted the head of the Egyptian Nuclear Power Plants Authority, Amjad Al-Wakeel, as saying that the concrete would be laid for the second reactor in November 2022.

It is important to recall that during the first Russia-Africa Summit in 2019, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi reaffirmed their commitment to intensify cooperation in various economic sectors and in particular to accelerate work on the special industrial zone and the construction of proposed four nuclear power plants, raising hopes for an increased power supply in Egypt.

Historical records show that Egypt has important strategic and economic ties, in fact longstanding good relations with Russia. During his official “working visit” in late July to Cairo, Egypt, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reiterated in one of his speeches two major projects, namely the construction of nuclear power plants, the contract signed in 2015 and the construction of an industrial zone on the banks of the Suez Canal which has also been on the agenda for several years.

In an authoritative policy report presented last November titled – Analytical report of the situation – and prepared by 25 Russian political experts, it was noted that the number of high-level meetings has increased in previous years but that the share of substantive issues on the agenda remains low. There are few definitive results from these meetings. There has also been a lack of coordination between the various state and parastatal institutions working with Africa.

Many projects announced at the highest political level have not been implemented. The reason for this is usually that the projects were not properly prepared before official approval. As a result, budget funding is often spent on raw and unprepared initiatives, according to the report.

In many cases and situations, ideas and intentions are often seen as results, unapproved projects are announced as moving forward. Russia’s possibilities are overstated both publicly and in closed negotiations. This report further underlined that Russia’s foreign policy strategy towards Africa should clarify and integrate the development needs of African countries.

According to Oleg Ozerov, Roving Ambassador and Head of the Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum (RAPF), “the Russian side aims to continue preparing for the second one and making it as effective as possible. The Russian Foreign Ministry and other ministries are taking steps to establish full and mutually beneficial cooperation between Russia and African countries.

Nevertheless, Russia still has thousands of decade-old broken promises and several bilateral agreements signed with individual countries that have yet to be implemented on the continent. Moreover, in previous years there have been an unprecedented number of “working visits” by state officials in both directions, to Africa and to the Russian Federation.

In an April 2021 interview from South Africa, Ryan Collyer, Rosatom’s Regional Vice President for Sub-Saharan Africa, highlighted the importance of developing nuclear power plants and training nuclear specialists in universities. and institutes of the Russian Federation. Our research shows that since 2010, hundreds of students from Algeria, Ghana, Egypt, Zambia, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia and South Africa have received nuclear and related training at leading Russian educational institutions.

Collyer noted in his discussion that around 600 million people lack access to reliable electricity in sub-Saharan Africa. Beyond the inclusion of nuclear energy in the energy mix, it gives a powerful qualitative boost to the economy, to the establishment of high-tech industries and, therefore, will lead to the growth of the potentials of export and, ultimately, to a better quality of life. in Africa.

Collyer therefore concluded in his interview that nuclear energy, as part of the energy mix, can solve problems ranging from weak industrialization to advances in science, health and agriculture, thus propelling the continent towards the future. African Union Agenda 2063.

After several years of delay, however, Rosatom began pouring concrete for the El Dabaa unit in July. According to the estimates of the Rosatom project, the construction of the four units of the nuclear power plant should be completed by 2028-2029. According to the description published on its website, State Atomiс Energy Corporation, commonly known as Rosatom, is a world leader in nuclear technologies and nuclear energy.