A technology lawyer on a journey of evolution, Jennifer Chimanga says she was a corporate/M&A lawyer, “but now I have evolved to a technology lawyer who does M&A. I am passionate about all things digital, from digital infrastructure to software applications and everything in-between. Clifford Chance gave me a platform to develop a practice in technology and M&A.”
Africa Legal asked her a few questions about her practice, the challenges and opportunities, and her vision for the future.
Q: Each African country has different laws and systems; how do you navigate across the different legal systems?
A: We don't practise local laws in the different jurisdictions, with the exception of Morocco where we have an office. I co-head the Africa Group with Mustapha Mourahib, the managing partner of our Casablanca office, who is based there. We are both Africans with deep roots in Africa, which is a unique feature of our Africa Group within the international legal services context. We work in partnership with the best African law firms and make sure that we develop ways of working together that deliver an exceptional service to our clients every single time, no matter which market they're in.
Q: What’s your strategy in your new role to keep Clifford Chance clients in Africa and attract new clients?
A: Our strategy is very client driven. We support our clients to pursue opportunities and navigate risk globally. It's about where our clients operate and what they need, and then being able to provide exceptional service in those markets. We have invested very heavily in an international bench of Africa specialists, and we combine deep sector and product expertise with the best that the local markets can offer.
Q: Legal systems in some African countries are not robust. What assistance is Clifford Chance giving to help enhance the rule of law in weak legal systems?
A: We are often engaged by governments on a project basis to help them develop the right legislative frameworks, including upgrading what they already have in place, to meet a standard that fosters the level of foreign investment they're looking for. For example, Mustapha has been heavily involved in working on financial reform legislation in Morocco. That's one part of what we do. The second part is around capacity building for lawyers in the market via the Clifford Chance Africa Academy which is a replica of our Clifford Chance Academy training program for Clifford Chance lawyers. Hundreds of African lawyers have gone through this program.
Q: What does Clifford Chance seek to achieve in Africa?
A: We are very committed to Africa as a continent; it is a significant market, not just for our clients, but also in the wider global context. We work very closely with our partners in Africa to support our clients in their endeavours. We also meaningfully engage with the different African markets we operate in, to uplift people's lives. We want to empower and facilitate economic development and to see Africa succeed.
Q: What challenges are you likely to face and what strategies will you use to overcome these?
A: As a business, I can’t ignore the wider macroeconomic and geopolitical context. There is a lot of complexity to navigate. For us, it's thinking about how we empower our teams to support our clients in navigating that complexity. We do this by helping our lawyers keep up to speed with what's happening in the market and having a very clear and direct line of communication with our partners on the ground so that we're able to stay ahead of the curve.
Chimanga notes that the law firms in Africa are growing exponentially, not just in terms of numbers, but also in terms of capability, “And that is a very good thing! But it is also something we are watching very closely,” she noted.
“We are very keen to develop the next generation of leaders, not just for our firm's African group, but also the next generation of African legal leaders,” she concluded.
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