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200 young south africans 2019
200 Young South Africans 2019

Huge investments in Africa is the name of the game for financial lawyer, Bilal Osman Latib who works for the Emerging Africa Infrastructure Fund, where he plays a key role in directing foreign investments into vital infrastructure developments across Africa.

The fund, worth $1-billion, is managed by Investec Asset Management, which uses money from European governments, banks and development finance institutions to support private sector infrastructure projects. As its legal counsel, Latib negotiates funding for some of the most innovative and complex infrastructure projects in Africa, including ports, airports and power projects.

“The exciting part of my role is that I work on investments in a number of countries in Africa and I’ve experienced firsthand the impact these projects have on people,” he says.

One project the fund invested in was a bulk water system in Rwanda that will deliver up to 40-million litres of water a day, growing Kigali’s existing water capacity by a third and delivering water to 500 000 people. Another was a hydro power plant in Uganda to generate more affordable electricity.

“To date, the fund I advise on has invested about $800-million in Africa. With each deal we help to provide access to the infrastructure of these countries, which creates new employment opportunities in addition to granting new and improved access to energy, water, communications or transport,” he says.

Born in the small Limpopo town of Tzaneen, Latib graduated from law school at the University of the Western Cape, and initially worked as an associate at law firm Webber Wentzel, where like any law graduate, he anticipated a career trajectory that would take him into the court room. Some activism and some invitations from key individuals in the investment field, however, enabled him to divert into banking and finance law.

Now the investments that he advises on tackle some of Africa’s most urgent infrastructure development needs. The fund is at the forefront of exciting opportunities that many companies want to be involved in, he says, explaining how it makes sure that local stakeholders are brought on board to ensure long-term sustainability and success.

“I think everyone wants Africa to be a success story and would like to be part of a movement for positive change. Now that I am involved in something that excites me, my plan for the future is to hopefully say I’ve advised on a deal in every country in Africa, grown my role as the business develops and continued to be part of a unique organisation that is committed to doing responsible investments,” he says. – Lesley Stones