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Interview with Urvi Gudka: In my heart I will always be an African, first and foremost

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Ahead of this year’s Africa Energy Forum (aef) in Nairobi, we speak to Urvi Gudka, a Senior Associate in A&O’s Projects, Energy, Natural Resources and Infrastructure (PENRI) practice, about why tackling Africa’s energy challenges is close to her heart.

Many of the energy projects you work on are in Africa. Why is that important to you?

I am from Africa. I was born and raised in Nairobi in Kenya and have lived there most of my life. In my heart I will always be an African, first and foremost, so energy in Africa is a topic that is very close to my heart and is something I am extremely passionate about. It was a big part of my decision to join the legal industry and what keeps me going.

What’s your role in the PENRI practice?

I joined A&O in 2015 and I am a senior associate in the PENRI practice based in our London office. During my training, my second seat was in project finance, and it was truly love at first sight! Within the first month, I had decided that this was the area I wanted to specialise in.

During my training I also got the chance to spend six months in our Abu Dhabi office, also working on energy and infrastructure projects. The scale, size and sheer audacity of some of the projects we were involved in was really second to none. It was a wonderful and inspiring experience to be exposed to that.

I returned to London and since then I have gained broad experience working on projects and project financings in Africa, Europe and the Middle East, but with a particular focus on Africa and other emerging markets. Increasingly my work has focused on investments in renewable energy, including hydro, solar, wind, biomass and hydrogen developments, spanning into infrastructure, as well.

Where Africa is concerned do you specialise in eastern African countries?

In the early days I was lucky enough to work on a big wind farm development in Kenya and it remains, for obvious reasons, one of the best projects I’ve been involved in.

But my work is pan-African. I’ve advised clients on projects in eastern, southern, central and western Africa. I speak French, having spent a year in Paris as part of my Law degree, so I’ve had the chance to work on a few Francophone projects in western Africa as well.

Having this cross-continent role is great. It’s very interesting to be able to sink my teeth into all of these very different economies, markets and legal systems.

Do you spend a lot of time on the ground in Africa?

Not as much as I’d like, although I regularly return to Kenya, where my parents and family still live.

The clients we are advising – whether they are export credit agencies, lenders, sponsors or developers – are based all over the world so the vast majority of our work is virtual.

What brings you to aef this year? What are you hoping to come away with?

I’m very excited to be part of the A&O team going to the aef in Nairobi this year. It’s a great chance to meet people on the ground and face-to-face.

Kenya is one of the fastest growing economies in Africa and you can see the pace of change in its capital. It’s a dynamic, cosmopolitan and exciting city – yet the warmth of its people shines through. I’m looking forward to showcasing Nairobi, my hometown, to the rest of the team.

Urvi will be attending this year’s aef alongside Head of Africa Group and Global Co-Head of the PENRI practice, Tim Scales, Partners Alexandra Clüver, Alessandra Pardini and Antoine Haddad as well as Counsel, Alexandra Felekis, Senior Associate and Head of Lusophone Desk, Filipa Serra, and BD Manager, Sophia Loizia.

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