“Our strategy for Africa is very well-defined,” declared Alberto Galhardo Simões, partner at CMS Portugal. “It’s to enhance the capacity of our local African offices.” Earlier this year, the Lusophone Africa team, led by Galhardo Simões, and LBR Advogados, led by Luís Borba Rodrigues, integrated a new team in CMS’s Angolan associated office.
This move is part of a drive to expand CMS’s offering within Africa, particularly the Portuguese-speaking countries. The firm is also proactively investing in honing the skills and capabilities of its local African teams.
“Several years ago, there was this idea that the work was done largely from outside, and that in-country lawyers only got involved when specific help was needed,” explained Galhardo Simões. “Today, we are able to service our clients, whatever the jurisdiction, from within Africa and we want to enhance that.”
“Clients need a sophisticated service – the kind they expect from a UK or German office. Creating an office with the right capacity to provide that level of service really excites us,” Borba Rodrigues added.
But what does “capacity building” look like practically?
“We are in countries where the English language is spoken by few people and few lawyers,” clarified Borba Rodrigues. “So, we’re having to invest in English language courses to develop our staff on this front, otherwise we won’t be able to communicate and engage with various commercial legal matters.”
As the second largest oil producer on the continent, Angola is an important market for CMS. The Lusophone Africa team recently assisted on a mega oil merger deal between BP and Eni valued at $14 billion.
“The country [also] has a very ambitious programme to privatise its state-owned companies,” Galhardo Simões explained. “This has been a strong M&A trend in Lusophone Africa, in addition to M&A deals that involve dealing with the African subsidiaries of multinational companies.”
Other important sectors include agricultural exports, consumer goods, financial services, tourism, real estate, and large infrastructure projects. CMS’s Lusophone Africa operations grew 35% in 2021, with “very good profitability”, said Galhardo Simões. “We want to keep growing but we don’t want to be adding teams and lawyers for the sake of numbers; we want to bring people who will bring skills and capacity to the team.”
Although the pandemic was a challenging season for many, it also brought about new ways of working. “The truth of the matter is during the pandemic, we actually had more revenues than before, in part, because we worked more efficiently,” Galhardo Simões shared.
Looking ahead, the men are optimistic. “We had fantastic digitisation during the pandemic,” said Borba Rodrigues. “But it also accelerated the process of building capacity in local offices which was a positive.”
Galhardo Simões added that they still needed to strengthen Mozambique. “We’re in the process of onboarding a local firm into the CMS network, and we need to make this happen this year.”
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