LAYING DOWN THE GROUNDWORK

Nigeria 2020 | TRANSPORT | INTERVIEW

ICRC has ambitious plans to significantly raise Nigeria's stock of infrastructure from 20-30% currently to 70% of GDP.

Chidi K.C. Izuwah
BIOGRAPHY

Chidi K.C. Izuwah started his career as a lecturer at the University of Port Harcourt. Thereafter, he held several senior oil and gas asset management positions in a career spanning over 21 years with SPDC (Shell Nigeria) and Shell International USA and Europe. He was confirmed to his current position by the senate and formally appointed Director General & CEO of the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission in 2019 by President Buhari. He has a first degree in civil engineering from the University of Nigeria and a master's degree in hydraulic engineering from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne in the UK. He is a frequent speaker at infrastructure finance, Islamic finance, and PPP conferences. Izuwah is also a Harvard, Wharton, Columbia University, and Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad Executive Education alumni.

Have you witnessed increased interest from foreign and local investors toward Nigeria's infrastructure?
Interest has always been high, but we need more. The level of investment is still a drop in the ocean compared to the deficit. The challenge is to find bankable projects, as investors are not just interested in names and titles. Investors should look at projects with a solid business case, with understood risks. These projects need to have gone through a proper procurement process, in line with the regulatory environment in the country for PPPs. We are open for business, but we need significantly more effort to ensure there is a constant flow of bankable projects into the market to attract more investment. We still have our challenges with roads, healthcare, water, and airports across all sectors. There is a nexus between infrastructure, development, and prosperity, as no society can become economically buoyant without solid infrastructure. This is what the national master plan is all about. We need to spend USD3.1 trillion over the next 30 years to raise our stock of infrastructure to 70% of GDP. By definition, a 1% increase in one's spending on infrastructure stock results directly in a 1% increase in GDP. This is something that investors cannot take out of the country with them, unlike profit.

What is holding infrastructure back?
Projects do not become bankable by an act of God. Infrastructure normally goes through a number of phases, with detailed, sophisticated feasibility studies. You need significant human capital to do that. We do not have an abundance of this human capital. You also need project development funding. If one requires external consultants to help them prepare these projects, then that becomes expensive. You need patient capital, too, and it needs to be invested upfront. Moreover, there are also issues around political will.

What is ICRC doing to address these challenges?
We are working hard to ensure we create an ecosystem where there is development funding for these important projects. We are also about create the ICRC Academy. That will be an infrastructure academy that focuses on developing the human capital we need to take on these projects. In the UK, there is an Infrastructure Projects Authority in the cabinet and the Project Academy in Cambridge, where people learn how to develop projects. It is not something you study in university, as each project requires a multiplicity of skills. You need people who have the skills to be able to integrate and pull that together. There are a series of critical issues that play a crucial role. In Nigeria specifically, we have jurisdiction issues between the states and the federal government. There is a rivalry sometimes, particularly around land. If you want to expand the highway, then you have to get land from the states, for example. But these are challenges that are surmountable; India and China have shown it is possible. More importantly, we have let the deficit grow for too long, without doing anything. It will take time to prepare the feasibility, make the projects bankable, and go through a competitive procurement process. The process must be transparent and competitive, so that people will feel safe to bring their capital. All this takes time. What is important is the effort. Lekki Deep Water Port is a huge new investment. The Abuja-Kaduna Pipeline is also happening, and these will change the face of our country. We have 69 projects there ready and in place. About 138 projects are in the pre-contract stage.