The positive impact mobile phone technology can have on everyday lives was a major reason leading lawyer NanaAma Botchway recently accepted a board position with MTN Ghana.
“I find the transition of mobile phone companies into financial services companies to be very interesting,” says Botchway, who in a few short years grew N. Dowuona & Company from sole practice to internationally recognised ‘top tier’ M&A and infrastructure projects firm.
“The impact smartphones have had on the lives of many people – particularly the people at the lower end of the socio-economic scale – has been transformational,” says Botchway.
“And I really think that the potential impact the MTN Mobile Money business has to connect the unbanked to the financial services sector is going to be transformational.”
Harnessing the law, technology, and big projects to benefit wider society has been a motivation of Botchway’s for decades. As an undergraduate at Princeton University in the early 1990s, she wrote her thesis on using microfinance to alleviate poverty in Ghana.
Botchway’s appointment on March 1 as a new, independent Non-Executive Director of the local arm of Africa’s largest mobile provider gives her a new way to continue that journey.
“The opportunity to work with the MTN team, to shape the decisions around some of those things, I find to be a very interesting challenge,” she says.
Talking to the self-confessed “geek lawyer” about her journey in law, it’s easy to see why she has been described as an “impressive individual” and excellent, dynamic leader when she’s been honoured as a Leading Lawyer by the Legal 500, Chambers & Partners, and IFLR1000.
Botchway’s drive and passion shine through.
“I was always one of those kids who was kind of champion of the underdog,” she says, recalling her childhood in Ghana and the United States.
Being concerned about inequities and mindful of fairness lent itself to a natural interest in law, adds Botchway. So, while many of her Princeton classmates went into consulting or investment banking, she completed an MBA at NYU then a law degree at Columbia.
“When I got to law school it just felt like the most natural thing, like all the things that I was interested in or good at just aligned.”
After working as an associate for some prestigious New York law firms, Botchway returned to Ghana in 2003. She worked in private practice and as legal counsel for an investment firm while raising her children, before establishing N. Dowuona & Company in August 2011.
“I started my business because I just didn’t see a place I would naturally fit, and I wanted a modern, African law firm that was similar to the firms I’d seen and worked at in New York.”
Botchway was particularly inspired by the “very, very, very entrepreneurial feel” of Kirkland & Ellis LLP, where she’d interned, and how young lawyers there could interact with partners, do real work, and see what they’d worked on filter through to the advice that went to clients.
“I wanted to set up something like that, a place where young African graduates would have the opportunity to do world class work, and to have a place where their ambitions to be the best anywhere could be realised. That’s what motivated me, and it’s still the vision.”
What began as Botchway, her laptop, and an assistant has now grown to a three-partner firm with fifteen lawyers and almost thirty staff (everyone working remotely the past year). The work ranges from bespoke advice for nine-figure M&A deals and infrastructure projects, to a new ‘Launchpad’ initiative working with clients traditionally unable to afford their services.
“We’re looking for ways to be able to serve more segments of the market, but also to give back and to help,” says Botchway. “To have a greater impact with the work we do.”
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