Ismail-Claude Candolo Joins Inspired Evolution As Investment Director

Accomplished Energy professional says it’s his time to give back to Africa 

Congolese born Ismail-Claude Candolo, who recently joined investment advisory business Inspired Evolution as an investment director for the West and Central African region, is on a mission to light up Africa using clean, affordable energy. A seasoned investment professional, he worked for over a decade at the world’s largest independent electricity producer, ENGIE, and is certainly well qualified and equipped to take on this challenge.

Instrumental to his mission is Candolo’s decision to join Inspired Evolution, working out of Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire. His primary role is to identify and assess scalable and compelling commercial projects within clean energy and environmental growth industries across West and Central Africa.

Candolo already has a global career within green investments. For four years, he successfully led multiple financial assessments of investments and M&A opportunities across Sub Saharan Africa. More recently, he originated greenfield projects for ENGIE in the Far East from his home base in Singapore. But he says the time has come for him to return to Africa, give back to the continent and play a part in contributing to its cleaner future.

You’re moving from a large to lean organisational structure. What motivated your decision to join Inspired Evolution?

My move to Inspired Evolution was a natural choice for several reasons. The performance and success of their two dedicated clean energy and environmental growth funds, with an Evolution III Net Zero Fund in the offing in early 2022, speak for themselves. But upon meeting the team personally, I was equally impressed with their on-the-ground knowledge of the African market and understanding of its unique challenges, and even more so by their creativity in overcoming these challenges, as is evident in their many successes to date.

Moving from a company with 180,000 employees to one of 12 is a massive change. But I welcome the opportunity to express my ideas and be heard. As the eyes and ears of Inspired Evolution in West and Central Africa, I believe I have a real opportunity to shape the firm's strategy.  

Why Africa and why now?

It is no secret that the world’s population growth lies in Africa.By mid-century, it is estimated that the continent’s population will increase by one billion people in Sub-Saharan Africa and almost 100 million people in Northern Africa, which represents more than half of global population growth. Yet, today, approximately 50% of Africans live without access to electricity, which is completely unacceptable.

Energy access in the 21st century is not a nice-to-have; it is a necessity. While the transition to renewable energy is critical for the continent long-term, it needs to be considered and implemented in a balanced manner that goes hand-in-hand with socio-economic growth and the wellbeing of the African people.

By empowering local businesses through ownership and involvement in the energy transition process, we ensure that there is a benefit to the people who live here and are helping to lift Africans out of poverty.

Inspired Evolution is committed to unlocking transformation and accelerating low-carbon, clean and sustainable energy generation across Africa. In my new role, I am confident that I can make a positive and lasting impact on the continent, using my extensive global energy and infrastructure experience to upskill and uplift local industry along the way.

The good news is that Africans have a growing will to learn and work towards a cleaner energy future. Governments are in the process of trying to bridge the gap in education and infrastructure to accommodate the energy transition. Still, it will require both financial and mentoring support of high-income countries and the private sector to succeed.

What are your main challenges in this new role?

A lack of sound regulation is a critical challenge in the West and Central African market. Most governments are still struggling to find the right balance of being open and attractive to the market while protecting their national utilities, and this hinders new business development. However, the high level of public indebtedness leaves no choice but to reform, which will in time bring in greater competition and support of the private sector – it is simply a question of patience.    

Competition in Africa is also fierce. Due to the complexities surrounding regulation and a lack of local skilled industry, the number of bankable deals is currently limited, further intensifying competition. One way to overcome this is to enter into the process at the early stages of development, which again comes with its own set of challenges and increased risk. Having spotted a gap in the market, some developers have started specialising in bringing companies to the bankable phase. I intend to develop and nurture these relationships, which will help reduce the time and risk involved in identifying suitable projects in the future. 

Why are you excited to be working from Abidjan with your family?

I am glad to be back on the continent! As the hub of West Africa and francophone countries, Abidjan was a natural choice for my French-speaking family and me. While I enjoyed my time in Singapore, it can feel very far from Europe with the time difference. Geographically, Abidjan is conveniently at the centre of our professional interests. This gives me the freedom to move around and meet with regulators and ministries and become a familiar and trusted face on the ground. From a personal perspective, I am equally excited about the opportunities Abidjan offers to travel and discover new places in my downtime with my wife and children.  

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