Kenyan students shine in continental competition on nuclear energy

Mike Felix Okoth Ochieng’ (left). The fifth-year Electrical and Electronics Engineering student at JKUAT picked the top honours. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

Kenyan students excelled in the continental essay writing competition.

The nuclear power essay competition was meant to show efforts in attaining the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on access to clean and renewable energy, and the promotion of sustainable industrialisation in Africa.

Two Kenyans, Mike Felix Okoth Ochieng’ and Sandra Afwande Olang'o, were among the top winners in the event organised by RePlanet Africa, a grassroots non-governmental organisation that advocates for science-based solutions to the challenges of our time.

The competition sought to ignite dialogue and encourage innovative thinking regarding nuclear energy.

Ochieng’, a fifth-year Electrical and Electronics Engineering student at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) picked the top honours.

Coming in fifth was Sandra Afwande Olang'o, a fourth-year Radiography student at JKUAT.

The other two were Connor Dalen, a first-year student of Physical Sciences at the University of Pretoria in South Africa and Chiahanam Joseph, a fifth-year student of Medicine and Surgery at the University of Nigeria.

Mike Felix Okoth Ochieng’ and Sandra Afwande Olang'o were among the top winners in the event organised by RePlanet Africa. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

Kiggala Jessy Sean, a fourth-year Petroleum Geoscience and Production student at Uganda’s Makerere University, came in fourth.

The details emerged at an event held on Monday evening on the sidelines of the Africa Climate Summit in Nairobi,

Open to university students across the continent, the essay competition drew 128 participants from 60 universities in 13 countries from across Africa.

Uganda, Nigeria and Kenya recorded the highest entries at 38, 36 and 33 respectively.

Other countries that participated in the competition included Ghana with 6 entries, 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).

Environment, Climate Change and Forestry CS Soipan Tuya described nuclear energy as perhaps Africa’s last best bet in powering sustainable economic development and addressing climate change.

In a statement read on her behalf by the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) vice-chair Sophie Matura, CS Tuya emphasised the importance of nuclear power in Africa's energy mix.

CS Tuya highlighted its potential benefits including enhanced energy security, baseload power, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and increased access to electricity for under-served communities.

National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) vice-chair Sophie Matura. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

“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 CS Tuya.

RePlanet Secretary General Karolina  Gylfe 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 Ngome, RePlanet Africa Board Chairperson and NEMA Board member, 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,” said Prof Ngome.

According to Patricia Nanteza, 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.

The top five essays will be published on the RePlanet Africa website and all 128 participants will become honorary members of RePlanet Africa.