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6th Feb 2023

Building a Winning Team: How Millar Cameron Supported Gridworks Development Partners and their success in Africa

Despite considerable focus from national governments, international developmental organisations and private investors, the power sector in Africa remains seriously underdeveloped.

Filed under: Blog Articles

Tim Beckh
6th Feb 2023

Nearly 600 million people are estimated to be without any power or are suffering with intermittent and unreliable supplies. The vast majority of money that has gone into developing the sector has been targeted at increasing generation capacity both from traditional and, increasingly, from renewable sources.

Far less well financed has been the transmission and distribution (T&D) infrastructure that links generation facilities to homes and businesses across the Continent. Recognising the need to stimulate investment in this much overlooked asset class, British International Investment, the UK’s Development Finance Institution - that has, for the last 70 years, been at the forefront of supporting companies that help developing and emerging countries grow - created an innovative investment and development platform to focus specifically on T&D projects.

The business that emerged from this initiative was Gridworks Development Partners (Gridworks), the first of its kind in the African market. Millar Cameron was retained to recruit its first CEO and to build out the rest of the team.

Recruiting the right team for a start-up venture is always a challenging task, and Gridworks was no exception. The recruitment process involved taking the Gridworks vision and ‘selling’ the story and its pioneering mission, finding candidates with a rare mix of skills and experience. In addition, we needed to balance the requirements of its publicly funded shareholder whose budget could not compete with the salaries of investment banks where candidates for several of the positions were to be found.

Despite these challenges, Millar Cameron was able to successfully recruit the CEO, Simon Hodson, as well as two Investment Directors, the Technical Director (CTO), an Investment Manager, an Investment Associate, and a Project Development Director!

This was a significant achievement on numerous fronts. Firstly, this was pioneering territory. Effectively, Gridworks was a private sector start-up focused on an Infrastructure class that has, in large, been the domain of the public sector and which has experienced a severe lack of investment over many decades. There was the challenge of articulating the Gridworks vision and strategy to potential candidates. Gridworks was pioneering investment in a segment of the power sector that was poorly appreciated and considered less lucrative than power generation. However, it was as equally vital. Engaging and enthusing individuals with the vision, potential and impact of success was key.

Solar Panels

Personal chemistry was also an important factor in the assessment process, as the small yet dynamic Gridworks team was to be closely knit and highly collaborative. Candidates needed to have a combination of geographical and sector knowledge, as well as development and investment skills in the off-grid energy or T&D space, something that is a very rare combination in a sector that is chronically underdeveloped in Africa. Where hard experience was missing, Millar Cameron, had to evaluate candidates’ transferable competencies and ability to assimilate subject matter quickly.

Passion for the mission was also a key consideration, as the work that Gridworks was doing was not just about making money, but also about improving the lives of people in Africa.

Finally, for some positions, French language skills were needed, adding an extra layer of complexity to the recruitment process. Using our knowledge of the industry, in-house multilingual research capability and well-established networks in both Anglophone and Francophone Africa, Millar Cameron was able to help Gridworks recruit a team of highly skilled and passionate individuals who are dedicated to making a positive impact in the energy sector in Africa. This is testament to Millar Cameron’s ability to deliver results in a complex and dynamic market.

In a short time, the Gridworks team have gone on to lead some high-profile and ground-breaking initiatives, most recently investing in a pilot project with the Ugandan government: the Amari Power Transmission. This US $90 million scheme aims to bring private investment into the Ugandan electricity transmission sector. You can read more about the project here. Furthermore, Gridworks has made other exciting investments in urban mini-grids in DRC through its Moyi Power joint venture and has recently invested $50 million in Virunga Power, who are developing rural electrification projects in East Africa.

“Working with Gridworks has been hugely rewarding. Being involved from the inception has allowed us to really understand the business and to develop our understanding of its ambitions and culture as it grows. It feels like a genuine partnership which has huge benefits for us all. It is fantastic to see the team now developing innovative ventures and investments that will really change people’s lives in Africa”.

For more information, please contact Tim Beckh, Partner, Power & Infrastructure at Millar Cameron:

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