With the passing of former president John Magufuli, Tanzania is at a crossroads; one in which businesses await to see if the inauguration of the new president, Samia Suluhu Hassan, marks an opportunity for change, not just for business, but for all Tanzanians. Hassan is the first woman to hold the post, as well as the first to hail from Zanzibar, with its distinct contribution to that nation’s history.
In that sense, she is a trailblazer for her people, much as Shemane, a skilled corporate lawyer who specialises in corporate and M&A, and associated issues such as tax, is for her firm.
Shemane, one of the small numbers of US/Tanzanian qualified lawyers whose careers span in-house and private practice, is a trusted advisor to business, whether proudly African, or internationally diverse.
She is, she tells Africa Legal, actively advising clients on a range of matters, mentioning the challenging regulatory environment businesses can face in Tanzania, if not properly advised; tax, restructuring, finance all feature.
Clients, she says, have “increased their focus on carefully managing regulatory and compliance issues, including tax and structuring and planning”; while hers is a client-centric approach, which “understands their business objectives while delivering solutions that are commercially viable”, as well as legally practicable.
While A&K Tanzania is a full-service law firm, she says, she has clients in mining, hospitality, and telecoms, all highly regulated industries in Tanzania, and despite the impact of the pandemic on the regional economy, she notes, the firm has not ceased deal-making. On the corporate side there is M&A activity, as clients seek to restructure and dispose of assets, while others see the chance to enter the market, through strategic joint ventures, or mergers.
For each, her approach is one that gives clients “what they need to know to get (the deal) done”; as well as how, and if, they can do it, all while minimising risk.
This “has allowed us to leverage our ability to connect clients with (mutual) synergies and despite its immense challenges, the pandemic has created a multitude of opportunities for us as a firm.”
Hers is a pragmatic practice; she does not repeat statutes back to her clients, but rather, gives trusted business advice that gives clients the crisp, clear, commercial answers they can work with.
A&K Tanzania, as a business itself, has met the ebb and flow of demand during a challenging business environment; Shemane, who is quietly focused and positive, says new leadership offers a chance for the state, too, to be more business friendly.
“Tanzania is at a very critical juncture”; for, despite press reports that have not always portrayed Tanzania in the most favourable light, it “is ripe with an opportunity for reform… the question is how that opportunity can best be managed to bring the right results.”
Shemane says Hassan’s appointment of a new minister of foreign affairs “sends a very clear signal to the international community about where diplomatic relations rank in terms of her priorities”, which bodes well for increased foreign direct investment, which had reduced during Magufuli’s latter years, but “the right frameworks need to be in place for trade agreements,” so as to avoid challenges in implementing any US, UK, or EU deals.
“Every political transition marks an opportunity for change,” says Shemane; “Policies and positions adopted by the previous government… create an even greater expectation for President Hassan's government to catalyse reform in areas that extend well beyond the business environment,” including fundamental rights and protections, media freedom, and an evaluation of Covid-19 policies, which “strongly suggests that the country's policies on this issue may also shift in the near future.”
That means it is “very important for investors to understand the likely reality of how the new government might operate based on our history and also our future aspirations.”
Supplying this on the webinar will be Lawrence Nyasebwa Mafuru, the former Treasury Registrar of the Ministry of Finance; equally, understanding Tanzania‘s pan-African context is essential, with Dr Greg Mills, director of the Johannesburg-based Brenthurst Foundation, adding economic insights.
Joining them will be seasoned business advisor, John Ulanga, of TradeMark East Africa who has senior experience with multinationals like BG and Diageo; all three will share practical insights on what such reforms could mean for investors.
“Tanzania: Take-Two – Insights on the impact of the political transition on business”, hosted by A&K Tanzania and Bankable, takes place on April 23, 2021; from 2-3.30pm EAT. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
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