A young Seychellois is gaining new experience that he can bring back to Seychelles while working at the California Energy Commission in the United States.
Errol Renaud's experience in California follows the six-week Mandela Washington Fellowship, which is the leading programme of the Young African Leaders Initiative, or YALI.
Now Renaud is at the California Energy Commission, which acts as the state's primary energy policy and planning agency. The work there is similar to what Renaud does in Seychelles.
"I work at the Seychelles Energy Commission and the opportunity blends well with the work we are trying to achieve in terms of energy policies, electricity regulatory work, energy efficiency and carbon emissions in Seychelles," said Renaud.
While looking at what can be customised to Seychelles' energy needs, Renaud aims at creating a network of contacts as he feels that collaboration is the key. He told SNA via email that "as a small island state we cannot stay in isolation as we need external help in delivering innovative ideas and solutions in achieving our energy goals and targets."
During the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Renaud was placed in the University of California-Davies. His fellow Seychellois, Denis Antat, Sylvana Antat and Malshini Seneratne were at Florida International University, University of Maine and Rutgers State University of New Jersey, respectively.
After the placements, participants had to attend the Mandela Washington Fellowship Summit, which featured networking and panel discussions with U.S. leaders from the public, private, and non-profit sectors.
Senaratne was chosen as the speaker to represent her business and entrepreneurship track at Rutgers University at the summit. She used this platform to address social entrepreneurship, her volunteer work with girls in a secondary school and the importance of educating girls to become empowered women.
"The university is providing me with opportunities to expand my skills in the education space," said Seneratne, adding that she is currently collaborating with the university on one of their senior undergraduate classes focused on doing business in Africa.
Sylvana Antat described the experience as "a great opportunity to understand the best practices, policies and approaches, and how these can be tailored for use in Seychelles, to achieve maximum benefit for society."
She added that they now have an abundant supply of African and American experts to bounce ideas off and to work with for the improvement of development and livelihoods in Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, and Africa.
The participants -- called fellows, who have since returned to Seychelles -- are interested in running community engagement programs aimed at the youth in the country. At present, these initiatives would revolve around themes such as youth health and social affairs, climate change and environmental issues, advancing girls in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) & women empowerment.
The 2017 fellows plan to hold a panel session about the Fellowship in September and talk about their experiences in the States and the benefits of the programme. They are also proposing setting up an Alumni for the past and present fellows in Seychelles.
The Young African Leaders Initiative was launched in 2010 by former U.S. president Barack Obama as a mean to support young African leaders. In 2013 during a trip to South Africa, he announced the first Washington Fellowship aimed at empowering young African leaders to make a difference in their home countries.
In 2017, the fellowship provided 1,000 outstanding young leaders from Sub-Saharan Africa, including Seychelles, with the opportunity to hone their skills at a US college or university with support for professional development after they return home.
The programme targets individuals between 25 to 35 years and is conducted on as a merit-based open competition. All eligible applications are reviewed by a selection panel and the chosen semi-finalists are interviewed by the U.S. embassies or consulates in their home countries.
Eligible and interested candidates can make their application online.