The African Development Bank (ADB) estimates that Africa will require infrastructure funding of up to $170 billion a year by 2025, with an estimated shortfall of around $100 billion a year. This is against the background of the Covid-19 pandemic, which saw the continent’s GDP contract by 2.1% in 2020, its first recession in half a century.
“Dealing with this problem is a complex issue that requires a combination of engineering excellence and readily available funding,” said Dr Frank Igboamalu, CEO of the newly-established Osmotic Engineering Group (OEG), which has the vision of being the driving force behind sustainable infrastructure on the continent.
The firm’s key focus areas are water, energy and telecommunications, with offices in South Africa and Nigeria at present. The directors have deep experience, each being a specialist in one or more of these fields, and having worked for corporate and utility institutions in Africa. The team is highly-skilled in project and business development, and also has expertise in managing various infrastructure projects across Africa.
“All infrastructure is ultimately related as water, energy and telecommunications are essential for growth. We also have the opportunity to ensure that our infrastructure is future-proofed and capable of ushering in a new era of growth in Africa,” adds Dr. Igboamalu. “By 2040, we want to see a continent where every person has access to potable water, electricity and connectivity.” These are crucial due to the fact that, for example, half of the world lacks internet access, with 70% of that figure in Africa alone, and a similar situation in water and electricity. Hence OEG came about as a grouping of highly-experienced engineers looking at novel ways to resolve the infrastructure deficit on the continent.
“We are African engineers who can solve complex infrastructure problems in Africa, as we have ground-level insight into the issues that affect both communities and economies on the continent. What makes OEG unique is that we back up engineering solutions with funding solutions. Without the necessary funding, it is impractical to implement engineering solutions in Africa, even if these represent the best technology available globally,” highlights Dr. Igboamalu.
OEG operates on the basis of collaborating with funders and financial, legal and environmental experts and others who prepare projects to financial close. This typically includes large scale infrastructure projects that are developed by means of public/private partnerships (PPPs) or other forms of project finance. The ADB highlights that total investment in PPP infrastructure increased nearly sixfold from $1.2 billion in 2004 to $6.9 billion in 2019, while the number of PPP projects doubled from 16 to 30.
Business development director Ronnie Khoza describes OEG as a multi-disciplinary engineering firm with a technical advisory and consulting capability. “We perceive ourselves as engineers who understand infrastructure development with the option to provide any project funding that is required,” explains Khoza.
OEG provides innovative solutions to national and provincial government departments, together with their utilities and based on their mandates, as well as local and district municipalities and their own specialised service delivery entities. On a broader industry front, OEG is also involved in the mining and manufacturing sectors, where its water and energy delivery units offer innovative solutions. Another niche area is telecommunications and network providers who are currently responding to the advent of high-speed 5G networks and the fourth industrial revolution.
“We are expanding in Africa and currently have strategic partnerships in several countries in order to assist us in addressing the lack of basic infrastructure in particular. Together with our funding and strategic partners, we are able to improve infrastructure service delivery,” highlights Khoza. “It is an exciting approach to engineering advisory and consulting, and one that is not traditionally adopted by the industry. We do believe that this will prove to be a key differentiator for us in the market,” stresses Khoza.