For Africa, In Africa
Jin Seung-soo of African Development Bank
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What are some of the most common preconceived notions of Africa? You might likely think of it as a place of less development, fatal diseases, and torrid weather. However, people with analytic insight will say that it is a place full of potentially infinite development. Jin Seung-soo (Division of Mechanical Engineering, ’09), dedicating his passion in making Africa a better country, is a member of the African Development Bank (AfDB). Jin shared his story of working in Africa this week.
Collaboration is the key
AfDB is an intercontinental development finance institution whose objective is to alleviate poverty and improve living conditions in Africa, with aims to develop its social and economic status at large. Currently consisting of 80 member countries, 54 of which are African countries and the rest, non-African countries, the organization is staying faithful to its mission through supporting projects and programs that foster the economic and social development of the country. Counseling and financing for development, the AfDB provides grants, concessional loans, and non-concessional loans which are mainly used to build large-scale infrastructure and for economic policy reformation or empowerment.
Upon entering the AfDB in 2013, Jin is currently in the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire where the headquarters is located and is taking charge of developing energy projects for Eastern Africa. He is an energy finance expert, mainly responsible for leading the energy project financing. In other cases, he is a financial specialist who analyzes the profitability and economic validity of the finance project. When the African government or a private sector requests finances for energy projects, the AfDB’s sector expert supports them as a task manager and forms an appraisal team with specialists like Jin in addition to other specialists such as environmental and social specialists, legal specialists, and credit risk specialists. The team would then make decisions regarding the financing for the project.
Taking a glimpse into Jin’s career in Africa, there seems to be little connection between his major Mechanical Engineering and his financing work. Jin accounted for this seemingly divergent career path: “since I was an university student, I was interested in other fields outside of the Engineering Department such as management and finance. I once took a course and studied plants, which triggered my interest in project financing. Being a part of the strategy for the planning team of Samsung C&T Corporation and Samsung LED, I added financial knowledge on top of my engineering knowledge. Then, I grew ambitious and wanted to use my competency to do something big.” Afterwards, Jin quit working in Samsung and got his M.A. degree in Business Administration from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST). Having studied both engineering and finance, Jin was eager to find the merging point between the two fields. He finally came to the conclusion that he would finance projects, which led Jin to challenge himself in Africa in a sequence.
The potential to create greater impact
With its growth rate exceeding that of the world’s rate, Africa is being spotlighted for development investments, displaying an infinitude of possibilities for development around just about every corner of the country. Working for and living in Africa for several years now, Jin has been witnessing the growth of the country while at the same time being involved in its development. “Currently, Africa isn’t a very stable country, which is why many countries are deterred from investing in it. In the case of Korea, it is maintaining its speculative stance toward Africa since it classifies the country as a risk. However, Africa has a very high growth rate and a strikingly low development level, which brings the effect of development to its climax,” commented Jin.
As aforementioned, Jin’s job is to analyze the economic validity of a project as a financial analyst. He feels the highest sense of achievement when the project he financed develops into a beneficial one, both financially and economically. He recalled one of his most rewarding performances while financing South Africa’s Concentrate solar power plant project, where earning the approval from the bank was very difficult due to a profitability-related matter. Despite the fact that Jin was a newly recruited member, he was a big help in that situation. “It is always a very good thing to see people’s lifestyle changing due to the changes of development. Providing electricity to the region where there is no electricity, for example, would completely change people’s lives. Furthermore, the electricity could be used to further develop the area. Thinking about all the awaiting developments, it feels very gratifying and valuable.
As an energy finance expert, Jin’s goal in the long run is to promote as much investment as possible and contribute in its energy development. Furthermore, he envisions promoting investments to Africa from Korea and building a bridge between the two countries and allowing Korean corporations to enter Africa. “For all the students who dream of working for the promotion of global welfare, there are three things to keep in mind: First, fluency in a second or even a third language and expertise in your field are indispensable. Second, experience is crucial. It is never easy to enter an international organization, which means that in order to increase your competency, having related experience could lift you up and serve as an essential background. Last, suitability and perseverance are required. A large institute is not a place you can get into right after graduating from school. You need a definite goal and supporting plans to eventually achieve your dream. Failure is not to be feared!”
Jeon Chae-yun firstname.lastname@example.org
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