With the Covid pandemic now firmly in the past, the Middle East has been enjoying a return to form, with activity levels up across the region and many law firms – both local and international – in expansion mode.
On top of all of the investment driven by last year’s World Cup in Qatar, the wider Middle East region has benefited in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with global oil prices soaring, boosting revenues in oil-rich nations such as the UAE, where oil exports account for around 30% of GDP. Continue reading “MENA focus: From the World Cup to the world stage”
As the world moves on from the pandemic and growth is firmly back on the agenda at law firms, the impact of the global geopolitical uncertainty triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and soaring energy prices is shifting firms’ focus when it comes to international expansion.
The Middle East, where rapid vaccine rollouts mean economies bounced back earlier than Europe and where construction is booming under ambitious state-backed investment plans, is inevitably a focus for many. Continue reading “Middle East and North Africa focus: The competitive edge”
While the same old story of political volatility continues to pervade in Africa, a bullish M&A market and renewed optimism driven by a pan-Africa trade agreement makes the continent hard to ignore for law firms.
For Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF), an ongoing commitment to Africa has played an important role in galvanising its place among global firms. London and Paris offices have targeted the continent for decades, while the launch of a Johannesburg office in 2015 took its ambitions a step further. Nina Bowyer, the Paris-based co-head of HSF’s Africa group is very much alive to the challenges: ‘Obviously, Covid has crippled a number of economies across the world and Africa is no exception. Finding the necessary resources to tackle some of the challenges will continue to be difficult. Continue reading “Africa focus: Rising again?”
Far from immune to the global crisis – but making concerted strides towards immunity in some instances – the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA) has fared similarly to the rest of the world over the last year. That is to say that the universal impact of the pandemic has been felt across MENA, although the paths that the various countries have taken have been disparate.
Early lockdowns in several countries helped to contain the number of coronavirus cases, and a number of success stories emerged from the region with Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – numbers one and two, respectively – frontrunners in rolling out their vaccine programmes. While distinct, both countries have adopted an agile approach to sourcing and distributing the vaccine. Continue reading “Middle East Focus: Light on the horizon”
In times of stress and unpredictability, it pays to be conservative. Most sensible investors will plump for safe havens during troubled times. So is Africa a senseless gamble?
Some 20 years after the term ‘Africa rising’ began to enter the world’s consciousness, the continent still delivers a plentiful supply of extreme volatility and complexity, intimidating factors that seep into deals, projects and other legal engagements. It is not a benign environment for law firms. Continue reading “Africa focus: Africa first”
Joe Andrew, the architect of Dentons’ global strategy, is not known for pulling his punches. As such, his stance on staffing the African practices of international law firms is typical: ‘Why would you look to Europe or the US? It’s parochial, it’s a residue of colonialism, and it borders on racism.’
The firm’s chair warms to his theme. ‘There are 54 countries on the continent, and to different degrees they’re all experiencing an incredible democratisation of information. There’s talent everywhere. We don’t agree with our competitors who believe that the best way to service clients is to hire people from Europe.’ Continue reading “Africa rising – Foreign firms strive to cover the booming continent”
Encapsulated in the 1982 hit song by US soft rock band Toto, Africa is frequently referred to in hoary metaphors in the West. However, in a business context, tired clichés of a ‘scramble for Africa’ have made way for the less-frenetic tones of international law firms committed to proven, revenue-generating strategies. Nonetheless, the continent still attracts its fair share of figurative language. ‘The elephant is waking up,’ as one partner puts it. But if Africa is an elephant, some firms are eager not to get caught under its feet.
‘We have consciously decided not to plant a flag in one or two jurisdictions in Africa,’ says Shawn der Kinderen, co-head of the Africa group at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. ‘It doesn’t enable us to do the work our clients expect us to do in cross-border transactions.’ Continue reading “Legal leaders in Africa: Waking the elephant”
As the world’s largest continent, Africa covers 20% of global land area and 16% of the global population – currently 1.27 billion people, according to the latest United Nations estimates. By 2050, the addition of a further 1.3 billion Africans will be greater than the population growth in the rest of the world combined, pushing the continent’s total numbers above 2.6 billion citizens. In what is termed the biggest human transformation of our age, that figure is projected to reach four billion by the end of the century.
Accordingly, the infrastructure challenge is immense and some law firms are more alert than others to the long-term growth opportunities. Those with a short-term perspective see only problems: weak commodity prices, underdeveloped legal systems, corruption, currency issues and unstable or unreliable political regimes. They also focus on Africa’s still-modest aggregate GDP of $2.19trn (2016) – less than France – and compared with $1.6trn (2010), a slight decline in percentage terms over six years from 3% to 2.9% of the global total. Continue reading “Laying the foundations – lawyers scramble as demand for African infra booms”
‘There is no African law firm that does infrastructure the way we do; it’s front and centre of our strategy. There is a real gap in the market for a sector-based law firm.’
This bold statement comes from Richard Laudy, head of infrastructure at the latest foreign entrant into the increasingly popular South African market, Pinsent Masons. The national UK firm announced in July that it would be opening formally in Johannesburg in early 2017 with an office staffed by 20 lawyers and seven partners, including two partners taken from local heavyweight, Bowman Gilfillan, including head of construction Rob Morson and disputes partner Shane Voigt. Continue reading “The right platform – trying to find a long-term approach for Africa”
As we reported in our dispute resolution Insight ‘Clause and effect’ last year, Africa has become a disputes hotspot. With a fall in commodities prices leading to abandoned projects, disputes work is becoming even more plentiful.
Discussing dispute resolution in a developing continent comprising 54 disparate jurisdictions can lead to huge generalisations, but when it comes to arbitration there seems to be a case for a pan-African focus. The UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration has been implemented in a number of African countries, while the Organisation for the Harmonization of Business Law in Africa (OHADA) – covering 17 states in west and central Africa – has created a legal community with unified arbitration legislation and a common arbitration court. There has also been a proliferation of arbitration institutions throughout Africa. However, many of these institutions remain untested and do not have the support of the court system. Continue reading “‘Do we believe in Africa?’”