In conversation with: Mercy Wairua, advisory board member, ARIIC 2019
Updated: Jun 19, 2019
In second of the series, we chat to Mercy Wairua, legal counsel, Mota Engil and advisory board member, ARICC 2019.
1. What do you think the most fundamental challenge is when it comes to securing funding in the road/transport sector? Robust risk identification, allocation and mitigation. The approach to risk in a road project determines what kind of hurdles must be overcome in order to achieve bankability. At both extremes, either unfounded risk aversion or insufficient risk assessment, there is a chance that a project may not be implemented at all, or at least not without making fundamental changes to the initial structure or offering which would result in time and money losses. There is also a chance that a project’s costs could be unjustifiably high as a result of a perceived level of risk that does not match the project’s true context.
2. What innovative models or out of the box thinking have you seen that could apply to the African sector?
Kenya’s M-Akiba combines elements of crowd-funding and technological innovation to create a world’s first in form of a progressive government infrastructure bond.
Data and technology could both be useful both in dealing with risk and in capital raising for transport infrastructure. While Africa is not typically associated with ‘high tech’, the continent has proven that technological innovations need not be complex or expensive to be massively successful. I believe that there is still a lot of room for the application of technology to increase efficiencies in Africa’s infrastructure and to make it easier and faster to fund projects and secure returns.
I am inspired to make Africa’s story one of unprecedented progress
3. Private sector participation is vital - how do we encourage their participation through the legislative, regulatory and economic environments across the continent?
A framework that provides a degree of certainty in regulation and processes is a catalyst for private investment. Implementing projects involves the interaction of different legislation and regulators. Intra-governmental co-ordination, as well as ensuring that the multi-sectoral laws set consistent standards and expectations are key issues. For example, road-sector legislation, public private partnership laws and foreign investment regulation laws should be cohesive. Similarly, road agencies, licensing authorities and environmental regulators can co-ordinate efforts to set unified requirements.
4. What is the most important message you would share with stakeholders within the transport/roads sector when it comes to investment? Only a win for all the parties involved can be a true win. The end-users, public sector agencies and private parties should all be winning whenever a project is initiated, financed and implemented. Any other approach is likely to be unsustainable.
5. What is the thing you love most about your job?
The work that goes into structuring infrastructure projects has lasting impact. If a project is implemented, it can transform the lives of entire communities and local economies. In case it is not implemented, the lessons learned are usually cross-cutting and can help to shape both policy and processes in ways that vastly improve both private and public sector operations. It is exciting to be part of something much bigger than an individual or entity.
6. Who is the person who has most inspired you?
Not a single person but a nation. Singapore has proved that there is no permanence in underdevelopment and economic challenges. I am inspired to make Africa’s story one of unprecedented progress, regardless of the difficulties the continent has faced.
7. If you weren't doing this, what would you be doing?
I would either be involved in economic and development policy or I would work as a skydiving instructor and travel consultant.
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