The next steps for legal technology will revolutionise the way African businesses and individuals sign, certify and otherwise deal with key legal documents, says Fikayo Durosinmi-Etti, CEO and co-founder of ToNote, a technology startup based in Lagos.
“We want to be the platform of choice for African businesses who are digitising their documentation and signing workflows,” explained Durosinmi-Etti. “This means as opposed to affidavits, certified documents and contracts being processed and executed on paper, they can be executed fully online. We want to build an infrastructure that keeps the end-to-end documentation lifecycle fully online.”
As Durosinmi-Etti sees it, a paperless future is coming for the African legal industry. ToNote launched a pilot for digital, remote notary services in Nigeria in December 2021, and has since rolled out an e-signature solution and hybrid notary platform that currently operates in Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana and the United States.
“ToNote helps you sign documents electronically and get important documents checked and signed by someone who’s legally authorised to do so (typically a notary), without having to go into their office,” says Durosinmi-Etti. “It’s especially useful when you need to sign or certify a legal document but can’t meet in person.”
The next step Durosinmi-Etti and his team at ToNote are building towards is launching a fully automated platform, which he says will revolutionise the way legal documentation is processed in Africa.
Durosinmi-Etti was inspired to co-found ToNote due to his passion for simplifying complicated processes, and because of personal experiences when his own paperwork contained irregularities. He often had to get documents notarised, and says “the process was an absolute nightmare”.
While in the USA, he used a platform that simplified matters, but on his return to Nigeria he found nothing similar was available in Africa. Rather than going back to “the same old broken process”, Durosinmi-Etti thought Africans deserved a better experience.
He spoke to mentors, legal advisors and potential customers, developed and built the technology with what he says is “a really great team”, then launched ToNote shortly after the pandemic.
“It’s a business born out of necessity,” he said. “Because of Covid there’s an emphasis on remote work and being able to do things from anywhere and at any time. Governments are starting to digitise some traditional processes because of this as well, so it aligns with what we’re trying to do.”
While Africa is not traditionally an early adopter of technology, Durosinmi-Etti noted that in the past year or two African governments have started building out blockchain and digitisation strategies across judiciary functions, immigration functions and business functions.
“There is a true intent to digitise customer-facing processes now because it generally makes it easier to transact and do business. This is a sentiment that is shared across the continent. We want to contribute to that ecosystem.”
The ecosystem is rapidly evolving, and Durosinmi-Etti says ToNote itself is barely recognisable from how it began. They’re constantly adapting, evolving and rethinking the solution based on conversations with customers. One example is when ToNote introduced their e-signature solution allowing customers to sign documents in real time while on a video conference with a notary.
This week ToNote will host an Investor’s Demo Day targeted at Angels and partners across law firms in Lagos.
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