The second and final session of the UK-Africa Legal Services Conference focused on three important sectors - financial services, extractive resources and technology, media and telecoms.
Chairing the first afternoon session was Karim Anjarwalla, the managing partner at Anjarwalla & Khanna, a regular contributor to Africa Legal, in his second appearance at this event, hosted by Legal Services are GREAT.
Fintech, finance and banking were all under discussion, and aiding him was Titus Edjua, a partner at Watson, Farley & Williams, in London, alongside Lagos-based lawyer, Ivy Osiobe, an executive associate at Giwa-Osagie & Co, and Asha-Sabrina Ayub, a partner at Bowmans, in Tanzania.
Their discussions ranged from outlining the impacts of the pandemic on finance in their respective jurisdictions, to consideration of how African economies were adjusting, both in terms of how global banks assessed Africa, as well as parallels with the Asian market, and what could be learnt from that legacy of growth and change.
The situation of banks and growth in financial services in Nigeria, Tanzania and London was discussed, including exiting from the continent, while there was a lively discussion on regulatory trends, with the Financial Conduct Authority’s experience held up as a useful starting-point on fintech.
Technology of a different kind, “LawTech” was also discussed. While the panel felt it offered opportunities, the products on offer were often expensive and unaffordable for African law firms. Other issues related to the development of technology tools were discussed, like the safe supply of power and the availability of broadband and suitable bandwidth.
While Africa’s diversity of achievement in the FinTech space was not in doubt - FinTech raised almost $350 million during the first quarter of 2020 in Africa – the panel noted that the big opportunities in this sector would vary according to differences in national regimes and consents to develop, depending on the level of risk Africa’s countries had for that industry. Cryptocurrency was one such industry for future expansion – but that would depend on governments and regulators, regarding its regulation.
The session moderated by Yann Alix, a partner at Ashurst, looked at the role that ESG (environmental social and governance) played within mining and the extractive industries.
This was a discussion which looked at sustainability, through an African lens, and in many ways, went to the heart of the industry’s business model – and how it was changing. Prior to the session, as was the case for the other industries highlighted, Alix took part in a pre-conference 'Sector Champions' Q&A session on the Africa Legal website, where he outlined his priorities for building relationships and deepening understanding between the UK and African countries including opportunities for collaboration.
That background complemented his speakers; Daniel Driscoll, the Vice President, Legal & Compliance at Endeavour Mining Corporation, alongside private practice lawyers, Noreen Kidunduhu, a senior associate at Kenya’s Triple OK Law, and Sebastien Gaudu, a partner at Asafo & Co.
Driscoll, a familiar presenter to many, as co-chair of the GC Forum at the African Mining Indaba in Cape Town, led the audience through the in-house perspective, touching on a wide range of legal issues, one that took in both how lawyers saw ESG at corporate and board levels, but fully rooted in his operational experience, while his co-presenters were no less informed about how the industry, and its supply chain, was adjusting, both on a national and pan-African basis.
Driscoll’s experience in commodities was complemented by Kidunduhu’s energy sector and dispute resolution practice, while Gaudu’s international expertise was equally valued. Also under discussion were questions as to how the industry could diversify.
The final session was led by Sandra Oyewole, partner with Olajide Oyewole, who chaired the panel on the session covering technology, media and telecommunications (TMT).
Joining the discussion on emerging issues in Africa and recent developments was Jennifer Mbaluto, a partner at Clifford Chance; Davidson Oturu, a partner at Nigerian firm, Aelex; Janet Othero, a partner at Triple OK Law; and Benson Ngugi, the managing partner at Igeria & Ngugi Advocates. The four seasoned experts discussed their views on regulation, issues of trust and privacy and what they believe the future holds.
A key theme highlighted by all the speakers was that for any company who handled data, compliance with GDPR or equivalent regulations would become critical if they wished to do business. Generally, it was felt compliance with such regulations was improving.
The panellists emphasised that it was crucial for such compliance to become not just rhetorical policy but everyday practice, embedded into the structure and daily routines of companies.
When it came to public trust in how companies handled their data, this cultural shift could help to foster a business’ reputation as trustworthy and reliable. Other advice the panel gave to companies handling data was to ensure transparency about what data was collected, how it was collected, where it was collected from and how it was stored.
Although it was acknowledged that the TMT world would likely always remain one step ahead of the regulations, the need for regulators and lawyers in the sector to stay on top of the latest trends and policy direction was also addressed.
Asked what they thought the future held for the sector, the panellists said the future was ‘limitless’ as tech companies on the continent continued to rise and digitally well-connected cities such as Rwanda looked well-placed to be among the first ‘smart cities’.
For lawyers, the panellists agreed that the fast-changing sector provided vast opportunities for those providing advice and guidance and exploring the latest innovations.
That was the final session of the day; it was left to Emily Tofield, Director of Communications, at the UK Ministry of Justice to thank the speakers and more than 400 delegates who took part in what was a brilliant day full of knowledge sharing, networking and development.
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