By Ndubuisi Micheal Obineme
Women in Infrastructure Development & Energy (WINDE) is well positioned to become Africa’s Infrastructural and Energy Hub for development.
Sharron McPherson, Co-Founder & Director of WINDE made this known during an exclusive interview with Oil & Gas Republic’s Correspondent, Ndubuisi Micheal Obineme.
Sharron said that WINDE was formed to create positive social impact in the infrastructure, development, energy and related sectors as women participation across the infrastructure development value chain ultimately results in better and more profitable projects.
According to her, WINDE has over 2,000 women owned SME’s which are capable to carry out projects. These women are also shareholders in WINDE’s investment projects. It’s a win-win scenario for project developers and industry players, governments, women in infrastructure and for the communities who benefit from better conceptualized, developed and implemented projects.
She said WINDE introduced the opportunity and helped to facilitate the closing of WOESA’s (a key WINDE shareholder) acquisition of a 30% equity stake in Plant Design and Projec Services (Pty) Ltd. (PDPS) which is based in Secunda with Sasol as their main client. Established in 2007, PDPS is a multi-disciplinary engineering and construction company offering engineering, piping and structural fabrication, installation and plant maintenance services. It specializes in the design and maintenance of petro-chemical plants. WOESA stands for Women in Oil & Energy South Africa.
“Women hold up half the sky. There is no team that wins with half of its star players sitting on the bench. If we’re are going to realise our full potential here on the continent, then we’re going to have our women meaningfully deployed in key sectors where they can bring the energy and resources that are required for us to really move forward. My vision is an African infrastructure sector that is inclusive and sustainable and where have no more potential. It’s all being fully utilized,” she added
She further stressed that the African continent is facing a serious infrastructure backlog as Mckinsey reported about $US150 Billion, the World Bank $US93 Billion in March 2018 of accumulation of uncompleted work.
“One of our key challenges is who pays for the backlog? In addition, GDP growth and a growing middle class means that every year we need to be investing more infrastructure develop.
“Again, where do we find the financing sources for our infrastructure needs? Innovation and creative thinking in financing solutions for our infrastructure and energy needs are serious challenges for us right now,” she added
Speaking further, she said Sub-Saharan Africa in particular has had a host of development challenges. Every sector of the economy has been impacted by the lack of meaningful investment and poor management of resources. No African country has been immune to this legacy of “under-development”.
However, these challenges present the greatest opportunity for trade and investment. Africa is the youngest continent on earth. It’s the fastest growing and has the largest population of persons between 15-25 years of age. She added: “We’re also incredibly connected and have the highest cellphone usage penetration rates globally. Of course, we’re also the richest continent in terms of natural resources. Really. Africa is the future any way you slice it.”
She also said that South Africa has a great policy framework in the infrastructure sector but the challenge is in the implementation and the enforcement of regulations and provisions contained in industrial charters (i.e. the Construction Industry Charter). The policy framework contemplates the participation of women in infrastructure and related sectors, but South Africa – like most countries globally – falls down when it comes to the actual realization of the vision enshrined in the policy framework.
“In my opinion, this means that “sticks” alone aren’t sufficient. But, we do need both sticks and carrots. Real transformation however, occurs when major industrial players decide that doing business differently isn’t just the right thing to do – but it’s also the smart thing to do. And I believe that increasingly this will happen. It’s why WINDE exists. We intend to be market influencers,” she added
She concluded that WINDE has impacted over 1 million South Africans since inception in 2016. And the impact then translates up the economic ladder to African countries faring better when their women do better. She added: “If you do minimal research on the countries globally that are doing best in terms of economic growth, you’ll see 100% positive correlation between well-being and meaningful inclusion of women in the formal economy. It’s a no brainer and we shouldn’t even be discussing this 25 years after the publishing of conclusive studies by every institution that matters, including WEF, the World Bank, the AfDB and every regional and national DFI that operates in Africa.”