This week the Africa Legal Podcast Series is in London for a conversation with one of the doyen’s of African-British legal relationships, Nigel Boardman from Slaughter and May. Joining Nigel is new partner Samay Shah and Justina Omotoya, who leads on development for the firm.
Hearing Nigel speak about his relationship and interactions with some of the great names of post colonial Africa is a lesson in history. This is a legal mind which has been involved in the development of nations and there can be no-one who understands the strengths, weaknesses and astounding potential of Africa better than Nigel. In one anecdote he reminisces about how the new nation of Botswana had its capital in Rustenburg in South Africa because the modern day city of Gaborone was not yet built!
He is quick to point out that the continent is diverse with very different challenges. Slaughter and May’s approach though, he says, has always been to work with the lawyers on the ground and not to open offices and impose the Western way on local people or business. Slaughter and May have a philosophy of encouraging the development of the people they work with, he says, wanting everyone in the team to be strong and to manage the complex needs of the firm’s clients with confidence.
Nigel says the African Continental Free Trade Agreement is a welcome development with far more trade needed between African nations than is currently the case. The colonial powers, he points out, developed plenty of routes to the coast but not enough between nations. Building of trade is a building of wealth, he says, but alongside the strong legal structure that comes with the Free Trade Agreement must come the physical structures.
Samay Shah then joins the conversation explaining that his move to partner had been under the cloud of Covid and travel restrictions but that he is looking forward to building relationships with Africa-based lawyers.
His goal is to deepen relationships and for Slaughter and May to grow with the firms on the ground. Africa, he says, poses novel legal issues that are not encountered in other parts of the world making strong relationships with local law firms imperative.
On a final note Justina Omotayo talks about her special project - Slaughter and May’s Practical and Legal Exchange African Symposium which will take place online on November 26.
“Sadly, this was meant to be our African year,” she says but taking the initiative online will enable delegates to experience different cultures and learn from international and local legal experts.
The theme this year is “Navigating the Crisis” and while the waters are still choppy, markets were righting themselves, she says. The strategic focus of the symposium would be on M&A and look at how companies were recovering.
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