Africa – is it fit for the future?

Is Africa fit for the future? Can the continent address its challenges and make the most of its opportunities? This is complex, long term and globally critical. Lawyers can and must passionately engage in this process of finding fit for purpose solutions.

Hogan Lovells held its fifth annual Africa Forum London event at Merchant Taylors’ Hall in July – themed Africa Fit for the Future – with the aim to explore, debate, and find solutions that in the long term will make a positive impact in shaping a sustainable and successful future for the continent.

At the Forum around 300 of us heard about a range of short, medium and long term ideas and actions that are critical to the development of the continent to make it "fit". These included the views of leading CEO's from business, politicians and cultural leaders, from those on the continent and from those outside determined to build business.

At Hogan Lovells we are a global business passionate about the success of the continent. We are determined to build our business in Africa with our clients. At the same time, we have made a commitment to the continent that we will seek to understand, respect and invest in local communities and operate in them collaboratively.

These are nice words, but how can lawyers really help contribute in the gymnasium of continental fitness?

The Rule of Law and capacity building

The Rule of Law underpins society and secures investment in that society. It cannot be fit without it and deals depend on it. But promoting the rule of law on a sustainable basis – which can support investment – requires more than patronising words from outside countries. It needs genuine commitment and capability within the legal system and support for the system from others which respects the talents and expertise of those on the ground.

So what have we done? Our Rule of Law 2030 initiative recognises, and seeks to promote, the links between the Rule of Law, business and society. Having worked with numerous governments and development institutions on the application of the rule of law, regulation and even helping to establish new legislation, we see our work in this area as an important part of the service we provide. To us, it is important that the private sector is informed of the operational realities of doing business on the continent and so we developed, alongside African Law and Business (ALB), a basic legal guide to investing in Africa covering 29 countries. View our Special Report on Investment in Africa 2018.

It is all part of our broader commitment to contribute to capacity building, transparency, and the rule of law across the continent and in South Africa.

We have given training and development support to over 50 individual lawyers and 27 law firms in 16 African countries between November 2016 and November 2017 through our continued relationship building efforts in-country. Our ‘Go Far Together’-programme which we launched last year, honing in on our work with local law firms, is thriving.

We helped create the first international arbitration centre in Rwanda, the Kigali International Arbitration Centre (KIAC), and has continued to support the centre since then. In addition, we actively support the implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals through work we do across the major markets, working in collaboration with governments and clients.

We like to see ourselves as innovators, so we have created the first walk-in pro bono legal clinic in South Africa and helped create the terms of reference for the Unburdening Pane, a forum for reporting of state corruption, leading to the ground breaking report on state capture in 2017.

We are committed to the long term financial and legal support of Barefoot college and commit to help newly trained mainly illiterate female solar engineers to light up 20 000 homes in 3 years.

More than aid

We are proud of our pro bono work but our commitment to capacity building is part of a much broader desire to focus on areas where we can mutually add real value.

This is the development of people, firms and institutions in different countries in the legal sector where we excel, but also elsewhere where our legal contributions can make a real difference with our ability to leverage and promote the development of local skills and expertise across a wide range of topics.

Make no mistake. This is a mutual effort and we have to work together with our clients, government and our friends on the ground. We cannot thrive in the continent without constantly getting a better understanding of and connection to the businesses and people in it; and showing respect while we do so. That is why we hold the best cultural events!

Our Forum raised many issues and questions; this isn’t supposed to be easy. It remains critical to approach Africa with passion and an open and respectful mind and to embrace not only its business, but also its diversity and culture, without which you cannot understand it, enjoy it, and succeed in it.

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