In 2015, the ECOWAS initiative on Youth Leadership Development in Energy was established. One of the five-high impact initiatives under the ECOWAS Programme on Gender Mainstreaming in Energy Access (ECOW-GEN), the initiative aims to prepare the region’s young women and men to become globally competitive energy leaders, that in future shape and influence energy development in the region and outside.
To accomplish this objective, the Youth Leadership Development in Energy initiative works to strengthen the intellectual and professional capacities of the youth in the region to contribute positively to the energy sector and its potential to enhance greater socio-economic change in the ECOWAS region. And to deliver this work, the Centre has gone into partnership with four ECOWAS universities, with world-class reputation in energy studies. These schools are as follows:
- Universidade do Mindelo, in Cabo Verde;
- Institut International d’Ingénierie de l’Eau et de l’Environnement (2ie), in Burkina Faso ;
- The Energy Center at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), in Ghana, and
- The Center for Petroleum, Energy Economics & Law, University of Ibadan, Nigeria.
These institutions, by providing a pool of energy experts, will be the vehicles through which the Research Grant Program and Mentorship Program, both components under the initiative, will be made operational.
The initiative, and its components, is a direct response to a key factor inhibiting the region’s young population from developing and using their potential for contributing to their country’s development; which according to the United Nations Economic Commissions for Africa (UNECA), is the disconnection between the skills obtained at school and the technical and practical skills needed to benefit from a dynamic labour market.
The Research Grant Program, by providing financial incentives and experienced mentors, is the bridge addressing this disconnection. The program aims to support young men and women to conduct and develop policy relevant, academic papers. These research papers must proffer solutions to real problems, and for this reason research teams are mandated to provide proof that their research is considered topical by a relevant institution.
The Research Grant Program has a long term vision of being the catalyst for the availability of indigenous consultants solving energy problems in their countries and the region as a whole. Another long-term benefit of this program is that research teams supported through this program must be gender diversified teams. The condition that teams must comprise of men and women is not taken lightly, as the program aims to support a future where women and men are partners in ensuring energy access and security; therefore, contributing directly to the goal of the ECOWAS Policy for Gender Mainstreaming in Energy Access: Addressing existing barriers that may hinder the equal participation of women and men in expanding energy access in West Africa.
The first call for research proposal was launched on 28 September 2015 and lasted till 31 January 2016. About 30 research proposals were received, of which the shortlisted proposals are being evaluated by the faculty members of the partner universities, aforementioned. The successful research teams will receive a grant of 1500 EUR to conduct their research. Stay tuned for this announcement.
 UNECA: Strategies to Promote Youth Self-employment in West Africa