New Development Bank
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Exclusive interview with Jonathan First, Lead Specialist, Product Incubator, Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA), South Africa.

“At AUW I will speak around the OECD report on blended finance as the most effective way to fund infrastructure”

Let’s start with some background on your role at DBSA?
I will speak about my role in the Product Innovation Unit, its purpose and how we interact with the rest of the Bank.

What is the most exciting infrastructure or energy project you have worked on in Africa so far?
I will talk about the Climate Finance Facility, the work we are doing around water resilience and off-grid energy systems.

What lessons were learnt from projects that did not do so well?
This will revolve around lack of “institutional capacity”, enabling environments and political will.

What in your view is the biggest misconception that people have about investing in Africa?
That the big bang approach to infrastructure is the most effective way to proceed to meet the required demands as opposed to a ‘convergence’ approach, which involves the merging of smaller projects to achieve the same result, particularly in the water and energy sectors.

Which countries on the continent are doing the right things? Where are the opportunities?
I would like to see political changes in SA [South Africa] and the positive effect this will have on the southern African continent, green shoots in Zimbabwe and the rumblings in DRC [Democratic Republic of Congo] – will this lead to change?

You are a featured speaker at the Finance & Investment conference at the upcoming African Utility Week on the topic of: How are DFIs working with local banks? What are the advantages of blended finance? Can you give us a sneak preview of what your message will be at the event?
I will speak around the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) report on blended finance as the most effective way to fund infrastructure; the importance of meeting the NDCs, SDGs and climate with blended finance.

What is your vision for the energy sector on the continent?
Grid versus off-grid and harmonisation of energy transmission on a regional basis.

What are you most looking forward to at the event?
The lunches! No really, the interaction with delegates and always learning, gaining insight into new approaches, products, sources of finance and projects.

African Utility Week