LBS logo London experience. World impact.

Search for students

Carl Manlan

  • Programme: Project and Infrastructure Finance
  • Nationality: Ivorian
  • Job Post-programme: Mo Ibrahim Leadership Fellow (Office of the Executive Secretary), United Nations Economic Commission for Africa

Professional background

Until recently Carl was based in Geneva, working as the Fund Portfolio Manager for The Global Fund. He recently relocated to Ethiopia where he is working at the UN Economic Commission for Africa as a Mo Ibrahim Fellow. Carl holds a Masters degree in Public Administration and a Bachelor of Commerce in Economics.

Technical expertise

10 years after my undergraduate degree, I was looking for an opportunity to update my skills and see what had changed in the finance world. I wanted to speak more knowledgeably to people in the industry – I’d never specifically focused on project finance, so the programme was a chance to gain some technical expertise. It was also the key to my career transition from health financing to public infrastructure.

Inspiring business perspectives

When I joined London Business School, I was in the process of applying as a Mo Ibrahim Leadership Fellow with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. I knew I would be moving to a more policyoriented role, so ensuring I had a range of different perspectives to reference was very important. 

The programme offered me the chance to interact with a wide cross-section of professionals. I studied alongside colleagues from a major development bank in Brazil, a top-notch innovation company in Germany, the oil and gas industry, and a company seeking to extract minerals in Guinea Bissau. For someone like me who comes from the public sector, access to this broad and inspiring range of business perspectives was invaluable. I found both content and delivery to be outstanding and the case study format was particularly valuable. Quality faculty, rigorous material and a fantastic cross-section of participants combined to provide a rich learning environment and great networking opportunities.

The social impact perspective

In my current role, I’m focused on policies that have the potential to transform African economies. Infrastructure development is central to my work and requires both project finance and public-private partnerships. Since completing the programme I’m more adept at understanding the challenges of project finance as it relates to public policy. ROI is important, but my real challenge is to structure deals that are sustainable both from a financial and a social impact perspective. I’ve learned to drive final decisions based on a balance of all elements – if a group of private investors want to build a road or a railway it means we can also connect agricultural producers to a factory, or to a port. With a deeper understanding of the technical finance aspects, I’m better placed to liaise across different levels of people. 

I’ve also learned to consider the wider political and legal environment when discussing policy matters. In this respect, the case studies we looked at in class have been very useful. We had some wonderful guest speakers – Orli Arav’s talk on a dam project in Uganda and Julien Michel’s presentation on an airport project in Jordan were particularly inspirational. Understanding the implications of these kinds of infrastructure developments is going to be extremely helpful as my work progresses.

Confidence boost

I’m very focused on what Africa will look like in 20 years’ time, and I believe project finance will be responsible for much of this transformation. The programme opened my eyes to the opportunities that exist here and gave me the tool kit to become part of this change process. It also helped me realise the importance of communicating effectively across industries to achieve progress. In all, it’s been a huge confidence boost – I now believe I have the tools and connections to take my career in the right direction.