As delegates return home from the Africa Energy Forum in Copenhagen they leave one major topic unaddressed.
This year’s Africa Energy Forum in Copenhagen was another successful event. Delegates from across the energy value chain networked, caught up with old colleagues, did deals and listened to interesting and informative panel sessions. It was clear that Africa remains an active market for investors and developers even if the number of major projects reaching financial close last year could be counted on the fingers of one hand.
The shine may have gone off the South African renewables market and Nigeria may still be struggling to work its way through the low oil price but there are other bright spots – Ghana, Rwanda and Kenya and close behind Ethiopia, Mali, Benin and Burkina Faso. The relative ease of delivering off-grid solutions is catching the eye of investors, even those who previously would have only considered deals in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and the number of new ‘platforms’ created through the coming together of sources of long term funds and experienced developers, is on the rise.
However, among all the conference hall conversations, group discussions, break-out sessions and hushed negotiations behind closed doors no one seemed to be addressing one key topic – the need for human capital to bring these complex ventures to fruition
As a business that has been supporting the African Power sector for over a decade we have seen the nature of the people skills in the sector change subtly. The sector was always a complex web of inter-relationships, partners working together in some projects and competing in others, but as the joint venture ‘platforms’ emerge, the need for CEOs to manage multiple stakeholders with differing cultures and agendas increases. The desire for home grown talent to lead these ventures is also on the increase and, thankfully, the pool of skills and experience necessary to do so successfully is growing on the Continent. No longer is the default to look for a CEO or Head of Business Development among the European and American companies that have dominated power development in Africa over the past twenty years. The pool of usual suspects has been well fished and clients are casting their nets closer to home.
Many challenges still exist when recruiting the leadership for a new venture be it a fund, developer, power project or asset. Fundamentally, the nature and scope of the role is key, as is the regulatory, political and financial (and financing) environment in which the business will operate. The choice of headquarters location will dramatically impact the pool of candidates willing to relocate and when you have a preferred individual in the frame, the structure of the compensation – particularly any performance related reward and expat benefits package – is critical in securing and then motivating your new recruit.
So, as the African power sector moves into the next phase of its evolution and a new mix of skills, expectations and hopes emerges, perhaps it’s time to acknowledge the elephant in the room and put the question of human capital squarely on the conference agenda?
Tim Beckh and Justin Wharton are Partners of Grosvenor Clive & Stokes, a London headquartered executive search firm specialising in the Energy, Infrastructure and Technology sectors that has been serving the Europe, Middle Eastern and Africa power sector for over twenty years.