Sergii Pylypenko is CEO of Kovalska Group, one of Ukraine’s largest firms. In a guest essay for City A.M., he calls on the private sector to get behind the country’s rebuilding
As I participate in the Ukraine Recovery Conference, amid London’s vibrant streets, I can’t help but remember the bustling streets of Kyiv. I am here, representing the Kovalska Group and Ukraine’s private sector, which previously accounted for 70% of our GDP. Today, it faces a massive task: restoring a nation marred by a war that we neither wanted nor started.
The Ukrainian private sector, historically significant to our economic growth, has shown immense potential in facing the aftermath of Russian aggression. Yet, the war’s widespread destruction has resulted in a debilitating operational capacity deficit. In this challenging scenario, firms like Kovalska have risen to the occasion, performing crucial tasks that stretch far beyond our normal commercial operations.
During Russia’s attempted assault on Kyiv, I immediately directed all available resources and production capacity towards strengthening our city’s defences, irrespective of cost. This wasn’t a business decision but a civic duty—an act of unity, defiance, and resilience. We joined countless businesses in setting aside financial objectives to prioritise our nation’s survival. Our contribution to Kyiv’s defence underscores the private sector’s strength, adaptability, and unwavering national commitment.
Today, our focus has pivoted from defending Kyiv to aiding the wider war effort and rebuilding the nation. However, the extent of destruction requires resources and operational capacity currently beyond our reach, necessitating strategic partnerships and international cooperation.
Although many of our factories remain physically unscathed, particularly those around Kyiv and in the west of Ukraine, the war’s devastation has overwhelmed our operational capabilities. Unique among manufacturers, Kovalska is the only Ukrainian firm capable of rapidly rebuilding bridges—a crucial task for restoring our logistical network. Over 400 bridges have been destroyed, highlighting the immense infrastructural damage and huge opportunity.
The reconstruction ahead is monumental. It’s not just about restoring what we lost but scaling up to meet the massive demand for rebuilding. Although businesses like Kovalska boast robust operational capacities, we fall short of meeting the mammoth requirements of this task. Filling this gap requires strategic investment and international partnerships, enabling the full potential of the Ukrainian private sector to drive post-war reconstruction.
Despite our challenges, the private sector’s resilience and the determination of businesses like Kovalska provide us with hope. We’re steadily regaining momentum and, with increased investment and international support, we can overcome capacity limitations and accelerate national reconstruction.
I am here in London, seeking to establish international partnerships that extend beyond Kovalska, including the wider Ukrainian private sector. I represent entrepreneurs across Ukraine, looking for partners ready to invest in the machinery, tools, and capacities essential for impending post-war reconstruction.
My call to action isn’t for a distant collaboration; it’s an immediate appeal. The world cannot wait for the war’s echoes to fade. Delays could create insurmountable obstacles to Ukraine’s recovery. We must sow the seeds of reconstruction now to shape our post-war future.
This vast destruction, albeit heartbreaking, offers us a unique opportunity to ‘build back better.’ We can reimagine and rebuild a greener, more sustainable future aligned with our European and British counterparts. Kovalska is already translating this vision into reality, integrating robust global ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) standards into our operations to ensure a responsible and sustainable reconstruction process.
Despite its devastation, this war has presented us with an opportunity to redefine our business practices and realign our objectives towards long-term sustainability. We aim not only to recover but to foster resilience, creating a Ukraine that stands as a beacon of sustainable development.
In conclusion, I implore the global financial community, the Ukrainian government, and my private sector peers to invest in Ukraine’s recovery. Your contribution will not only fuel our resurgence but also inspire a story of resilience. This narrative will underpin a lasting friendship with the UK and fortify our resolve to rise, stronger and more resilient, from the ashes.
The opportunity to invest in Ukraine’s future is now. The actions we take today will profoundly shape our response to the challenges we face. Let’s construct this chapter of reconstruction together, building bridges from London to Kyiv and far beyond. It’s more than just physical infrastructure—it’s about forging relationships, strengthening economies, and creating a resilient, sustainable future. This isn’t merely an investment in Ukraine’s future, but a stake in a prosperous, interconnected world.
As CEO of the Kovalska Group, I am committed to this vision of restoration and growth, and I am ready to partner with all those willing to join us on this critical journey. Through our shared efforts, we can convert the ruins of war into the foundations of a sustainable, thriving Ukraine, proving that even amidst the harshest adversities, the strength of human resilience and the power of global unity can light the path to recovery.