Meet Nyashadzashe: Regional Coordinator for Middle East and Northern Africa

Student Energy’s Global Youth Energy Outlook is led by a team of 12 youth Regional Coordinators who are working together to reach a total of 50,000 young people around the world in 2020 and 2021. As they engage young people in their region through a two-phase research process, the Outlook’s Regional Coordinators will be gathering insights and recommendations to develop the final Outlook report, with key findings set to be shared at COP26 in 2021.

In this interview series, we get to know each of our Regional Coordinators in-depth:

Introduce yourself and where you come from.

My name is Nyashadzashe Kunaka and I am from Zimbabwe. I am currently studying towards an MSC Degree in Energy Engineering at the Pan African University Institute of Water and Energy Sciences (PAUWES) in Algeria. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Fuels and Energy Engineering from Chinhoyi University of Technology in Zimbabwe. My background in energy has made me the passionate clean energy activist that I am today. 

What do you think are some of the biggest challenges to transitioning to a sustainable energy system in your region?

The political structure and the policies regulating the current energy system are some of the setbacks in transitioning to a sustainable energy system. However, the biggest challenge is the availability of huge oil reserves in the MENA region that makes it cheaper to generate electricity from oil and influence the policymakers’ decision to stick to fossil fuels, which are more polluting to the environment. For example, the cost of 1 litre of gasoline (38.5DZ ≈ 0.29USD) for fuelling a vehicle is less than a 1 litre bottle of drinking water (40DZ≈0.31USD) in Algeria. This implies that the transition of vehicle transportation to electric vehicles in order to curb emissions and mitigate climate change will be a very long process, as well as a difficult one. Apart from oil being the main energy source in the region, it is also the major contributor to their massive GDP (Gross Domestic Product) thus they might be a barrier against the need to deliver a sustainable energy transition by 2030.

What impact do you personally hope the Outlook will have in your region, and globally?

I hope the outlook will empower youth with innovative ideas on how to facilitate the energy transition in their respective regions and help them realize the distinct opportunities and challenges in transforming the energy system. Globally, I hope that more youths who do not know about climate change or acknowledge its impact will be educated, have a renowned interest in climate change adaption and mitigation, and understand how it plays a big role in ensuring a sustainable energy transition. 

Why is it important to hear the perspectives of young people in your region? 

Firstly, because they are the future leaders of tomorrow. Secondly, the youth will be the main driving force in determining the future of the energy system, thus their innovative ideas towards a sustainable energy system are vital. Being the future decision-makers and leaders of tomorrow, the path that the youth take now, whether it be acknowledging the importance of zero net carbon emissions or ignoring it all together, and the actions that will result thereafter will define the energy transition. The actions that will be taken now will determine the sustainability of the energy transition in the next ten and more years to come; therefore it is important to listen to young people’s ideas and nurture them towards a sustainable future. 

How do you think Student Energy and the Outlook will contribute to the future of energy?

The Outlook will bridge the energy gap between decision-makers or governments and the youth. The decision-makers can hear views from the youth concerning the current energy system and how they want the energy transition to take shape so that it will be sustainable and promote social justice and equity, human rights, and climate adaptation and mitigation. The outlook can ensure collaboration between the climate decision-makers and youths in realizing energy solutions that can facilitate a sustainable energy transition.  

How did you first get involved in Student Energy?

I first got involved with Student Energy when I joined the PAUWES SE Chapter at my University in 2018. Even though I did not manage to attend the SES 2019 due to conflicting schedules with my summer internship, I was one of the facilitators from my Chapters’ side for some of the students to attend the conference, after I became one of the leaders of the Chapter. It has always been a pleasure to be involved with Student Energy. I am thrilled at the opportunity to work with Student Energy as one of the Regional Coordinators for the GYEO representing the MENA Region.