A desire to build a global law firm with an African focus has propelled the growth of Asafo & Co. In this podcast the firm’s managing and founding partner, Pascal Agboyibor, speaks to Africa Legal’s Tom Pearson about disrupting the status quo and extending the law firm’s reach.
Asafo & Co has offices in Paris, London, Washington DC, Casablanca, Abidjan, Nairobi, Mombasa and Johannesburg with more openings on the horizon. Pascal admits he can’t rule out a presence in Japan or China and is very open to establishing new offices where there is an interest in doing business in Africa and where there is client need.
“We remain very ambitious and, while the initial goal has been to have a presence in key hubs on the continent, hubs can be very different. So, it is very likely that we are going to open new offices, the rationale being that we will be everywhere where we can best serve our clients.”
He says his colleagues tease him that every time he travels, he comes home with an idea for a new office. The reality though is that Asafo & Co. is disrupting old ways of cooperation by creating an international firm of like-minded professionals focussed on their clients’ African interests.
“And where we cannot open offices that are entirely Asafo & Co. because of local regulations, we will work in cooperation with local partners,” he says.
He says the firm’s rapid growth in East Africa (Asafo & Co. has two offices in Nairobi and Mombasa) is to meet the burgeoning demand for internationally-linked legal services in the region.
Kenya is attracting investment despite Covid, he said, while Rwanda, (with the new Kigali International Financial Centre) is on investors’ radar.
“Tanzania offers a lot of work but mostly on the contentious front – in arbitration, especially due to changes in the mining sector, while Uganda has movement in oil and gas.” Ethiopia is also being looked at for opportunities by the global investment community, but this has temporarily paused (due to Covid and political reasons).
Asafo & Co. was launched two years ago in Paris by a group of lawyers from a US firm and then later joined by colleagues from UK and other international firms, many of whom have worked together for decades. Serving client needs is paramount for everyone no matter where they are based, and this means working on an understanding that there can be no conflict of interests with clients at the centre of all decisions.
Tom asks Pascal what it means to be a disruptor and he explains that the way Asafo & Co. has been set up – as a law firm offering extremely broad international expertise but with a local coverage – is what sets it apart.
It could be that it is “the way we are tackling things, with energy and ambition and not just following existing lines and existing habits,” that is shaping the firm’s “disruptor” reputation, he says. Ambitious and passionate lawyers also thrive under the Asafo & Co. structure which is not over-limiting and offers a clear career path.
Pascal hails from Togo but has been based in Paris for some time. He was recently ranked second out of 100 business law leaders in Africa and named projects lawyer of the year by the publication Jeune Afrique. For his work on strategic and complex matters including mining, oil and gas and Mergers and Acquisitions he was, this year, listed as an expert in projects and energy by the Chambers Global Guide. In addition, in 2020 he featured as no. 17 of the top 50 disruptors in Africa published by The Africa Report.
This is an easy-to-listen to conversation that highlights the rigorous innovation in strategic planning around how to provide big clients with a unique combination of international expertise and on-the-ground legal support in Africa
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