Posted on Wednesday, 15 October 2014 15:22

Joshua Siaw: Legal eagle with a bird's-eye view

By Billie Adwoa McTernan in Accra

Joshua Siaw©Andy LaneThe youthful Africa director of an international law firm has made his diaspora experience an asset in professional life.

Joshua Siaw is a savvy lawyer. At 30 years old he has already carved himself an enviable international career, working with some of the world's largest law firms.

Faces oF Finance

Backed by a new generation of bankers, Africa's financial sector is fuelling the continent's exponential growth. Foreign investment continues to flow to African projects, but more than ever the focus is shifting, with the continent generating home-grown solutions to its challenges and shaping its own financial future.

Behind the scenes at African banks, law firms and companies, a quiet revolution is underway. The architects of this phenomenon are vanguard of finance professionals seeking to push the continent's rapid development and to channel the resources crucial to fund Africa's expansion.

It includes Simon Denny, one of South Africa's chief mergers and acquisitions experts, and Hafid El Fassy, a Moroccan banker battling to strengthen the ethical dimension of the financial sphere. Ghana's Joshua Siaw, too, is a rising star and at only 30 is heading the Africa division at a leading law firm.

There are thousands of such players across the continent, and these new faces of finance have several things in common, in addition to their vast business experience. They each have an international perspective and the ambition to shape a new self-sustaining Africa providing sophisticated financial solutions to build the continent of tomorrow. ●

In his current position as director of the Africa practice at White & Case, based in Johannesburg, Siaw rubs shoulders with some of the continent's most powerful heads of state and business people.

His reach now spreads across the continent, but his journey was not an easy one.

Growing up as the youngest of three children to Ghanaian parents in London, Siaw learnt the value of hard work from an early age.

At his tough inner-city school, he hit the books hard. "At one point I was studying 15 hours a day and I realised that the mind is like a muscle – the more you use it the more it expands."

Having earned straight A's in his A-Levels, Siaw went to King's College London, followed by a year doing legal practice.

After that his career catapulted: a stint at one of the US's largest firms, Shearman & Sterling, saw him advise the Abu Dhabi investors that bought Manchester City Football Club in 2008.

He worked at Gide Loyrette Nouel, a French law firm with a stronghold in francophone Africa, before joining
White & Case in 2010. He was appointed director of the Africa practice when he was only 28.

Siaw says he's in a niche position, able to understand the workings of both an international law firm and the culture in Africa: "I have lived and worked in Europe, the US and Africa and this has helped me in understanding the requirements of the international investment community as well as how business is done on the ground," he says.

White & Case has advised on over 90% of the sovereign bonds issued from the continent – excluding South Africa – over the past few years. These include acting for the Rwandan government on its debut $400m bond issue, and for Barclays and Citigroup in the $1bn Ghana bond.

In February, Siaw was recognised as a young Business leader in Africa by the AU Commission and the Olusegun Obasanjo Foundation at the AU summit in Ethiopia.

For him there is no time like the present to be working in Africa: "I feel privileged to be able to play a role in the growth and development of a continent that has become one of the most exciting and fastest- growing economies in the world." ●


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