Burkina Faso’s government announced Friday that it has struck an agreement with Russia to build a nuclear power plant to “cover the energy needs of the population,” which has less than a quarter access to electricity.
Burkina Faso has been ruled by a military junta since last year, and it has sought to diversify its international alliances, particularly with Russia.
“The government of Burkina Faso has signed a memorandum of understanding for the construction of a nuclear power plant,” it said in a statement.
“The construction of this nuclear power plant in Burkina Faso is intended to cover the energy needs of the population,” it added.
The deal was signed in Moscow during the Russian Energy Week, which was attended by Burkina Faso’s energy minister, Simon-Pierre Boussim, and Nikolay Spassky, Russia’s state atomic energy agency Rosatom’s deputy director general.
This agreement “fulfils the wish of the president of (Burkina) Faso, Captain Ibrahim Traore, expressed last July at the Russia-Africa summit during a meeting with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin,” according to the press release.
According to Rosatom, “the memorandum is the first document in the field of the peaceful use of atomic energy between Russia and Burkina Faso.”
It stated that the agreement lay the groundwork for future collaboration in sectors such as nuclear energy utilization in industry, agriculture, and medicine.
According to the African Development Bank, just under 23% of Burkina Faso’s population had access to electricity by the end of 2020.
“We plan, if we can, to build nuclear power plants by 2030, in order to solve the problem of the energy deficit,” Russia’s TASS news agency quoted Boussim as saying on Thursday.
“Our challenge is to double our electricity production by 2030, which will allow us to boost the industrialisation of Africa,” he added.
Burkina Faso imports much of its electricity from neighboring Ivory Coast and Ghana, while producing some of its own, primarily through hydroelectric or solar power.
The only nuclear power plant on the African continent is in South Africa, near Cape Town.
Since a coup in September 2022, Burkina Faso has been ruled by a military junta, which has caused the country to isolate itself from France, its traditional partner and former colonial power.
In search for new allies, Ouagadougou has drawn closer to Moscow.
Putin said in July at a conference in Saint Petersburg that Moscow will supply free food to six African countries, including Burkina Faso, in the coming months.
A Russian group visited Ouagadougou in early September to discuss expanding military collaboration with the ruling junta.
Burkina Faso has suffered years of deadly jihadist violence, which has killed over 17,000 civilians and troops and displaced over two million people.