Ghana, West Africa
Cape Coast Cityscape, Ghana, West Africa.

Policy Influencers

NYUAD research is helping to influence policy and improve lives in many developing African nations


Peter van der Windt, Assistant Professor of Political Science, NYUAD

We write policy reports, academic articles … all with the hope that policy makers will use it for better programming.

Peter van der Windt, assistant professor of political science


Unemployment is high in Ghana, particularly among youth. In response, the Ghanaian government launched a program that placed almost 4,000 unemployed young people into apprenticeship training. NYU Abu Dhabi researchers are leading the effort to survey those youth about their experiences to measure the impacts of the program.

Morgan Hardy, assistant professor of economics, said the evidence provided in the survey will be used by the Ghanaian government, as well as other governments and development partners, to help determine whether apprenticeship training programs are an effective use of limited resources in the fight against youth unemployment.


NYU Abu Dhabi researchers filmed political candidates standing for parliament in Uganda to determine if voter behavior would be influenced by watching videos of the candidates sharing their policy positions.

“We learned that watching candidate debates — videos of candidates sharing their experiences, backgrounds, and policy positions — actually influences voters and shapes the way they behave,” said Melina Platas, assistant professor of political science. “Our research shows that people do care about the quality of candidates seeking to represent them in office … and how they’re able to express their views.” Civil society groups are already planning candidate debates for a series of upcoming by-elections in Uganda. 

Going forward it’s possible that media, civil society, and political parties might also be interested in organizing candidate debates nationwide in advance of the next parliamentary elections, Platas said.

Public Services

Congo is plagued by conflict and corruption, which has left some public services in dire condition, particularly health and education. Many schools don’t have adequate supplies or infrastructure and teacher salaries are critically low, for example.

To address this, the International Rescue Committee introduced a grassroots, local governance program that included, for the first time, consultations with the villagers. The goal was to make the people who manage and run public services more responsive to the needs of the community. But has this approach worked to improve delivery of public services in Congo?

Peter van der Windt, assistant professor of political science, is leading a widespread data collection project to answer that question. The research will span 339 villages across the country and, he hopes, help policy makers make more informed decisions about their programming.