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Student Energy in Brussels: Youth Energy Summit! & Africa Energy Forum

24 June 2022

This past week, from June 20th to 24th, 2022, an inaugural Youth Energy Summit! event was held in conjunction with the Africa Energy Forum, in Brussels, Belgium.

Student Energy’s Director of Communications and Policy, Shakti Ramkumar, represented Student Energy at the Youth Energy Summit and Africa Energy Forum, while Sr. Director of Partnerships, Helen Watts, represented Student Energy at the Africa Energy Forum and European Development Days. Read on to learn more about Shakti’s experience!

About YES! 

EnergyNet’s new initiative, the YES! Youth Energy Summit, launched at the Africa Energy Forum this past week, acting as a springboard event before the first YES! Summit is held in 2023 in Nairobi, Kenya. EnergyNet aims to create a platform and network for early career professionals, entrepreneurs, students, and educators, and to invest in the next generation of energy leaders in Africa. An inaugural delegation of young leaders primarily from Kenya, South Africa, Ghana, and Nigeria gathered in Brussels to join the launch of YES! and to provide ideas and feedback for next year’s official Nairobi conference.

What was Student Energy’s role? 

To bring the YES! vision to life, in addition to reaching out to young energy leaders, EnergyNet is connecting with non-profits and other organizations also working in the energy space – like Student Energy – to amplify complementary initiatives. We participated by having a Student Energy ‘pod’ space attached to the YES! theatre, speaking at the Student Workshop, and joining in the YES! programme throughout the week.

Reflections

This week’s YES! program was centered on the theme of “Beyond Privilege”:

  • What is necessary for spaces like this, and the energy sector more broadly, to be open and accessible to young people who have not had the privilege of participating in them so far?
  • What tangible steps can organizations like EnergyNet take to ensure that opportunities, including the upcoming YES! Summit and its related digital platforms, are made available to youth from diverse backgrounds, from across Africa? 

I appreciated the formal and informal ideation and feedback sessions that the EnergyNet team held throughout the week, to tackle these issues now, and share best practices and co-create solutions with young people, with still a year to go before the YES! Summit.

The theme of “Beyond Privilege” was more relevant than ever this week, as many young people (including members of Student Energy’s own delegation) were unable to make it to Brussels due to widespread difficulties in obtaining a visa, an unfortunately common obstacle for so many youth from Africa, Latin America, and Asia to being able to participate in international negotiations, entrepreneurship conferences, and other convening events. This is on top of the significant financial cost, language barriers, internet and information access barriers, and other hidden challenges of engaging in these spaces. It is a glaring reality that some young people face compounding barriers compared to others, and without intentionally addressing them, we risk opportunities in clean energy going to the same privileged few.

However, by working directly with young people, we can address these challenges with creative solutions, and unlock the full potential of truly global collaborative spaces. We can’t wait to see what’s next!

Event highlights

The YES! Theatre at the Africa Energy Forum venue featured a jam-packed agenda of sessions featuring incredible energy leaders from across Africa. A few highlights:

    1. We heard from former EnergyNet program alumni Mary Mindo and Jigisha Mandalia, both now established leaders in the clean energy sector, on the impact the program has had in building their careers. 
    2. Zeddy Bariti, host of the Power Dialogue podcast, hosted a lively interview with Habiba Ali, CEO of Sosai Renewable Energies, digging deep into Habiba’s fascinating journey to becoming an entrepreneur. 
  • Raul Alfaro Pelico, Senior Director of the Global South Program, Energy Transition Academy at RMI, hosted a panel exploring how investing in young people in Africa can lift the boat of the whole energy sector, featuring speakers George Drammeh Akelola (Senior Legal Counsel at KenGen), Thuso Kuali (Investment Banking Analyst, JP Morgan), Alice Uwamaliya (Associate, SEforALL), and Maarten van Renssen (Managing Director, ESG, Globaleq).
  1. We were also on a panel! Exploring the many considerations and pathways to building a career in energy, the panel was moderated by Mohammed Rali Badissy (Assistant Professor of Law, Penn State), and featured speakers Anita Otubu (Head of PMU, Nigeria Electrification Project, REA Nigeria), Joseph Obbo (Researcher, Strathmore University), Bukelwa Nzimande (PhD Candidate, UCT) and me, Shakti Ramkumar.

Learn more about YES! and the AEF here.