The head of Hogan Lovells’ Africa practice, Andrew Skipper, addressed the conference on the general counsel’s views on partnership.
Referring to the paradigm shift that African free trade, via the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), would mean for African governments, as well as business, Skipper said the rule of law, and the mutual commercial opportunities, post-Brexit, that Africa and the UK could hold in common.
Among other speakers were Samallie Kiyingi, general counsel at the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), Adesua Dozie, general counsel at Mobil Producing Nigeria, Nkateko Nyoka, chief legal officer at Vodacom Group, and Michael Schottler, head of legal at Anglo American.
Nyoka spoke about the transnational nature of legal systems.
"Lawyers are uniquely positioned in the economic development and growth of the continent. They are also good facilitators with good political knowledge. This will be key in making deals with private companies," he said.
When asked about the values that lawyers brought to the table, the panel said ethics, understanding, and reliability were important; as were a solution-driven mind-set as well as legal expertise. More importantly, lawyers needed to understand the needs of the business, and, crucially, its values.
Collaboration, creativity, trust and strategic thinking were all critical. Lengthy essays explaining solutions, or discussions of recondite issues of law, were not required. As Schottler noted, if a brief didn’t understand corporate values, it wouldn’t meet corporate needs.
The transformational impact of law firms was also stressed; whether local or international, partnership and information-sharing were both critical – provided there was mutual respect. The flexibility of English law, and its certainty, helped but what mattered was the best choices for the work at hand – including the seat of the contract.
Dozie closed the session, by talking about how important representation was, in parallel with discussions about equity, inclusion, and belonging, in giving opportunities to lawyers of colour to progress. Firms could demonstrate their diversity, she said, by making sure that it has a seat at the table and that it belonged there.
A discussion on trade concluded the morning session. Speakers were positive about the ways in which international trade would benefit both Africa, and, post-Brexit, Britain, as chaired by Daryl Dingley, of Webber Wentzel, an expert in this area.
Law Society president, I. Stephanie Boyce, gave a clear, open, and pragmatic explanation of solicitors’ contribution to UK trade in services saying that England & Wales would remain open for global legal business, post-Brexit, as well as during, and after, the pandemic.
Maggie Baingana, managing partner at Shield Associates, took the audience through the benefits of AfCFTA, saying it would help diversify African trade, and move the continent away from extractive resources; keeping such resources in Africa and using them there.
That, she said, could help increase intra-African trade 89% by 2025. She also discussed how trade would benefit African women, as well as the small business sector, as such communities saw the benefits in trading across newly enlarged markets.
Taking a regional approach, barrister, Sajid Suleman, of 36 Commercial, spoke about trade relations between the UK and Kenya, taking participants through recent agreements, while also being nuanced about the reality of the deal.
To read part 2 of this series please visit Africa Legal next week.
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