What’s the one skill
every project manager
Being able to manage
people from different
cultures and understanding that we don’t
all look at the world in
the same way.
What’s the best pro-
fessional advice you
Keep an open mind.
People have to be allowed to not agree with
you, even if in the end
you make the decision.
What movie has spe-
cial meaning for you?
Argo. It’s a very good
example of project
resonates with me—
working for a U.S.
organization when your
project is in another
acquisition. We have to be sure the people who own
the land, like crop farmers, are compensated for it
and are involved in project decisions.
What types of projects do you and your
We have two types. One is off-grid projects,
which are mainly rural. These small projects, usually around 10 kilowatts with budgets of about
€ 50,000, bring electricity and telecommunications centers to villages. The other is on-grid
projects. These are big projects of about 20 to 30
megawatts with budgets of more than € 25 million. With these projects, private partners like
us invest in power plants, build them, and then
operate them and sell the energy to the African
governments at very good prices. These projects
have a long development phase of about two
years. Construction is about six months, followed
by an operation phase of about 20 to 25 years.
Is the development phase challenging?
Yes. Our main challenge is managing the local
stakeholders—addressing the cultural gaps and
compromising with them. Communicating with
the community members can be difficult because
sometimes they can’t read, so we can’t just put
things in writing. We have to adapt our communications and arrange face-to-face meetings with
the entire community. We might have meetings
with 200 people, including children, where we
explain the project and answer their questions.
How has that communications challenge
In 2016, we completed the two-year development
Can you describe an instance of managing
phase of our first 20-megawatt power-plant project
in Senegal. The first thing we had to do was secure
the land from the landowners. But in Africa, there
aren’t traditional landowners. There are tribes that
use the land across many generations. And per
IFC’s requirements, people in Africa who use the
land have rights even if they don’t own the land,
and we have to compensate them fairly. So we had
to notify them, meet with them and come to a
compensation agreement. And we had to explain
all this while seated at a table with 150 villages
represented in a small town in Senegal. They have
local languages, and they’re quite varied.
I remember I met a tribal chief but was not
allowed to talk directly with him—even though
we were sitting face to face. I was allowed to talk
only to an adviser, who then explained to the chief
what I was saying. I had to have an open mind and
respect that it’s not the same culture—because
there’s a risk of appearing arrogant. I had to convince this chief and his adviser that the project
made sense for them and for their community.
Because he agreed to work with us, the whole
community is now involved in the project, and we
have regular meetings with them, at least once a
month, to discuss the project’s status.
How do local communities’ requirements affect
the project scope?
That’s part of our risk management plan. The
scope of these projects can change often as we
take into account stakeholders’ specific requirements, or even as logistical challenges arise. We
work with local experts who have experience
in these locations, and we identify and mitigate
risks based on their input. For example, bringing
a certain container onto the project site can take
eight hours just to travel 60 kilometers ( 37 miles).
We’ve spent about a month with tribal members
just to check the roads and see what work needed
to be done. You can’t Google that—there’s no
data available about the countryside’s road conditions. So we had to set up a schedule contingency
and be able to adapt the schedule. The main thing
is being flexible. PM
Our main challenge is managing the local
stakeholders—addressing the cultural
gaps and compromising with them.