The SIPA Office of Alumni and Development is pleased to share A View from the Class, a SIPA stories series featuring current SIPA students. Today we feature Pekun Bakare, a dual degree Master of International Affairs (MIA) and Master of Business Administration (MBA) candidate. At SIPA, he am concentrating in Energy and Environment with a regional specialization in Africa.
What were you doing prior to attending SIPA?
Having left Nigeria at age thirteen to attend a British boarding school for five years, I completed my undergraduate studies in philosophy, politics, and economics at Durham University, United Kingdom. There, I first encountered my passion for public policy and the many areas it could impact. Most of my academic efforts focused on the key drivers of economic development and the impact that policy can have during this process. I began writing on this topic in publications at university, in local newspapers, and for Stears Business, an online economic journal, while also interning at the law firm Bryan Leighton Paisner, Citibank Nigeria, and Standard Chartered Nigeria to get a better sense of the space.
Upon graduation, I moved back to Nigeria to further my interest in development and pursued opportunities that would assist in reducing Nigeria’s growing $3 trillion infrastructure deficit. My first job was as an investment banking analyst on the project finance team of FBN Capital (First Bank of Nigeria), where I was responsible for syndicating debt capital from local commercial banks and development finance institutions to finance energy, transport, and telecoms infrastructure projects in Nigeria. Our team raised over $10 billion for use by local companies to acquire oil and gas assets and to build electricity generation plants, base transmission systems, roads, and bridges.
After four exciting years, I began a new role as an investment analyst on the Nigeria Infrastructure Fund of the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA), the manager of Nigeria’s $2 billion sovereign wealth fund. At NSIA, my job involved evaluating and investing in strategic infrastructure projects in Nigeria as well as managing the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund (PIDF) portfolio of hydroelectric, solar, and transport projects. This experience provided my first foray into the public sector and the challenging dual mandate of making attractive commercial returns while achieving social good.
Why did you choose to attend SIPA?
During my career in infrastructure finance, I observed that the challenges plaguing the sector were hardly due to a lack of lawyers, accountants, or consultants but were more related to policy mishaps that led to market failures, i.e. regulatory, procurement bottlenecks, uncompetitive tariffs, or unequal social benefit distribution. I chose SIPA because I wanted a more sophisticated understanding of how policy tools can correct these market failures and influence market behavior.
In addition, I was eager to meet more public policy experts from around the world in a context that allowed sharing of best practices, while pursuing international employment opportunities that put these lessons to work.
Why are you concentrating in Energy and Environment?
I am fascinated by the critical juncture of the global energy sector and want to learn more about how the advent of climate change will revolutionize the way we make things, eat, move around, and electrify our homes. Working in Nigeria, I witnessed how the effects of climate change were affecting areas beyond energy consumption and were beginning to have political, environmental, social, and cultural implications. I chose the Energy and Environment concentration to better understand the key forces at play in this process.
What has been your experience at SIPA thus far?
I have particularly enjoyed the energy and infrastructure courses, and being a panel coordinator for SIPA’s career conference in Washington, D.C. and a Capstone Workshop graduate consultant for the World Bank. As the International Trade and Finance Panel coordinator, I was able to physically visit D.C. (pre-pandemic) for the first time and meet fantastic SIPA alums from the World Bank, U.S. Treasury, International Finance Corporation (IFC), Booz Allen Hamilton, International Monetary Fund (IMF), U.S. Department of Commerce, and many more great employers. Panelists were eager to share their insights on the recruitment process and provide valuable lessons on how best to maximize the SIPA experience.
The Capstone Workshop was exciting because of the resources that the World Bank brought to the exercise as well as the importance of the assignment, conducting a study on how insurance products can unlock credit for smallholder farmers. Sixty-five percent of the poorest people in the world are smallholder farmers, so developing a framework for what financial instruments can be used to mitigate the risks that threaten their income was a very fascinating subject. We conducted research, surveys, financial analysis, and prepared a report. It was very fun to work with a group of colleagues from Mexico, Indonesia, Peru, India, Colombia, and China who had diverse perspectives to bring to the table and shared distinct insights on a complex issue.
What do you look forward to accomplishing during your remaining time at SIPA and Columbia?
I look forward to continuing to equip myself with the technical skills needed to understand the ways policy can be used to induce desired behaviors from consumers, producers, and distributors in the energy space to target a less than two degrees Celsius global temperature increase this decade.
How has being at SIPA affected you?
Beyond the academic benefits and access to world class faculty, SIPA has expanded my network of relationships to virtually every continent of the globe as I have formed close friendships with aspiring public servants in Mexico, Brazil, Japan, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, South East Asia, China, and India. This global perspective gained from diverse insights has and will continue to be invaluable.
What are your plans after SIPA?
Following an internship this summer with Goldman Sachs, I hope to work on the Natural Resources team of their Investment Banking Division, focusing on energy transition transactions as well as debt and equity deals in the metals and mining, chemicals, and power and utilities industries.