PIDG COVID-19 Response

8th May 2020 | Leave a comment | By Philippe Valahu

The COVID-19 crisis has presented unparalleled challenges across the world that will have a huge impact on PIDG and our work.

It feels important to let you know what PIDG is doing to continue our projects, whilst keeping our colleagues safe.

The current COVID-19 crisis has already had a devastating impact globally and both the immediate response and the recovery will require a huge amount of support and innovation, something that will be particularly pressing in some of the poorest countries in the world where PIDG operates.

PIDG are responding to the crisis through the following stages:

·       We are keeping our people safe. We set out an action plan before the lockdown in the countries where we are based, and we are working to official guidelines ensuring our colleagues and partners on the ground are safe and provided with the right information, as well as inserting extra measures such as training and regular check-ins.

·       We are analysing risks to our portfolio and we continuously work on scenario planning to protect the value of our investments.

·       We have convened a COVID-19 response task team on order to step up the PIDG contribution to responding to and recover from COVID-19 (see below).

·       Our leadership team, Executive Committee and Board are working on plans to prepare for the future. This includes ensuring continuity, finding innovative solutions and building a resilient team.

To be able to respond in an efficient and timely manner, the COVID-19 response task team has been created with representation across the PIDG Group, including PIDG Development Impact, EAIF, GuarantCo, InfraCo Africa, InfraCo Asia and PIDG Technical Assistance.

The aim of the task team is to (i) harvest and process ideas from PIDG companies on ways in which – as individual companies and as a Group – we can respond to the challenges created by COVID-19 through supporting existing and new investments and (ii) ensure coordination and coherence in PIDG COVID-19 response and related communication.

Since end of March we have worked on three approaches:

Immediate response (April and ongoing):

We are supporting the companies that we invest in, when: (i) they face extra costs to continue operations and keep playing their vital economic role and (ii) when they can make a positive contribution to public health in their communities, as part of their investments.

The PIDG Technical Assistance team has identified modest resources that can quickly be allocated and is working with members of theCOVID-19 response task team to process applications through a fast track route, without compromising on standards of oversight and contractual obligation. For example, innovative student accommodation provider Acorn continues to operate 3 building sites in Kenya with extra protective measures, providing vital income for hundreds of workers and keeping the company plans going. We are sharing the company’s additional costs through a PIDG TA grant.

Without additional Technical Assistance resources, PIDG company InfraCo Asia is providing a subsidy on energy bills for all end users of its Philippines Smart Solar Network project in order to help the off-grid community tide through a difficult time where precautionary self-isolation has cut off access to the usual channels of income. To enable safe operations to continue on InfraCo Africa’s Kalangala Infrastructure Services’ ferry route in Uganda, ferries are being deep cleaned after every journey and passengers have access to handwashing stations and medical checks before boarding.

Several of the companies that we work with have medical facilities in remote locations, for example in Zambia, Malawi, DRC, Nigeria and Mali. They are already working in the community to share public health messages, protect health professionals with the necessary equipment and support the community with emergency water provision and hand sanitisers. Good hygiene, regular hand washing and observing public health recommendations save lives, so we are supporting our companies as they play their part in the communities they serve.  For example, EAIF has secured PIDG TA grants to support their investment in the Azura power plant in Nigeria, to rehabilitate water supply for their nearby communities and local schools. The Albatros power plant in Mali has been helped to provide protective equipment and testing kits through local clinics. As a base load supplier to the Mali grid, minimising the workers’ exposure to COVID-19 is fundamental to the country fighting the virus and to economic stability.

Short and medium term:

As part of our social infrastructure offering, we are accelerating or scoping new investments in water and health related infrastructure or expanding and adapting existing investments in ways that are relevant to COVID-19 response but also make sense for longer term PIDG investments. For example, we leveraged our partnership with Kacific, a next generation broadband satellite operator providing services across 25 developing and less developed markets in Asia Pacific. Following the guarantee extended to Kacific in 2019 by GuarantCo – a PIDG Company, we have approved a PIDG TA grant to support Kacific to extend internet connectivity to remote health posts in the most vulnerable geographies that they serve. Internet connectivity will assist better tracking of infection in communities and allow faster and more efficient response to COVID-19 in smaller towns and remote locations. Beyond the emergency, connected clinics and health posts will continue to give remote medical staff access to up-to-date information, the ability to arrange medical supplies and transport, and the opportunity to work alongside city-based specialists. It also gives governments the ability to de-centralise their healthcare by leveraging as much as possible their entire network of clinics rather than mostly relying on their central hospitals.

While the public health response to COVID-19 is led by Governments and specialist agencies, PIDG continues to explore investment opportunities that are relevant to the response, that are within PIDG mandate and that can drive value and impact in the longer term.

Medium term:

PIDG is aware that our investments will be a crucial part of supporting economic recovery post-COVID-19 and we are working to ensure that we have the best tools to deliver that under very challenging circumstances. Infrastructure will remain critical and we will continue to work with the private sector to secure economic growth and job creation.  . PIDG companies are in regular contact with other lenders and investors in our geographies to scope opportunities to support our portfolio companies and other infrastructure investments during and after the crisis. We will continue to work flexibly with others to find pragmatic solutions to keep investment flowing.

I would like to once again reassure you that we are monitoring the situation closely and doing everything we can to protect our colleagues and the communities in all the countries where we operate. We aim to keep you updated on our progress.

On behalf of the entire PIDG team I wish you well and hope you stay safe and healthy.

Philippe Valahu

Philippe Valahu joined InfraCo Africa’s Board as Chairman in March 2018. Philippe is also CEO of the Private Infrastructure Development Group (PIDG) and has over 25 years of experience in infrastructure in developing economies, working with both the public and private sector. Prior to joining PIDG, Philippe set up an infrastructure finance advisory firm, worked in banking and was with the World Bank Group’s Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) where he was the Global Head of Infrastructure for MIGA.

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