Strength in Partnership: The Collaborative Relationship Between UK, African Firms

At a time where many law firms and corporates see only rough waters and cloudy horizons, Karim Anjarwalla, Managing Partner of ALN Kenya, Anjarwalla & Khanna (A&K) conveys a steady optimism, especially in discussing links between UK and African firms.

“There is a huge benefit to the commonwealth in collaboration and, if leveraged correctly, there will be many more joined-up offerings,” he says.

Kenya-based A&K’s deep African knowledge and global integration positions it well to comment on the collaborative relationships between UK and African firms. The firm, described as “a pan-African firm with a vision” has won the prestigious African Law Firm of the Year at the African Legal Awards five times since the awards were established in 2013. Additionally, A&K is a founding member and driving force behind ALN, “an alliance of leading corporate law firms currently in fifteen key African jurisdictions.”

Many of the benefits of UK and African firm collaboration are widely known: the common use of English law, a shared language and legal staff qualified in multiple jurisdictions. Yet beyond this, newer and stronger links are being forged between UK and African law firms with mutually beneficial outcomes. This is the theme of the keynote panel session, ‘UK and Africa beyond Covid-19 – collaboration and partnership between UK and African legal professionals’ at the upcoming UK-Africa Virtual Trade Mission from December 1-3.

The panel will offer an engaging discussion on issues including how firms from both regions, in the spirit of partnership and mutual learning, can provide better client service, efficiency of business operations and even better combined outcomes for the future.

Helping this development even further is that global capital and legal interests have increasingly focussed on Africa, especially investments from sovereign wealth funds, private equity and beyond. Today, UK and African firms “market together, share know-how, training, expertise and secondments”, says Anjarwalla.

So, what can firms from both regions learn from each other?

African firms, says Anjarwalla, have “on the ground knowledge in terms of network, market trends and regulatory practices, which is everything if you want to set up businesses in a part of the world that values relationships.” This local knowledge is essential to being successful on the ground, which he says, “you can’t do by helicopter”.

Furthermore, for firms that are not the global giants with costly and far-reaching office networks, having local partners such as A&K can help deliver cross-border services in an integrated way, by “having a strong relationship with local firms that have on-the-ground knowledge, network and business insight.”

In return, UK firms can offer scale, size, systems, IT and technology use in innovative ways. Anjarwalla suggests, “UK firms have a depth of expertise we can leverage and capital and client connections globally that we can help develop.”

The results of this collaboration so far have been highly successful, with the sharing of know-how and talent at the heart. ALN has had more than 40 secondments to the UK over the past few years and also had a number of inbound secondments into Africa from international firms.

The obvious challenges of Brexit and Covid to further collaboration also offer an opportunity for those UK firms that have not already set up in the African market. Anjarwalla says, “the depth of collaboration with an ambitious firm like A&K will go from strength to strength and a Brexit trade deal means the UK is going to increasingly be trying to make its mark in Africa.”

He continues to list the opportunities saying, “I can see deeper and more joined up offerings from global UK-headquartered firms and ALN. For example, I can see the sharing of IT systems, delivery of joint training, joint development of AI, marketing programmes to clients to facilitate African transactions, and more fixed and regular secondments. In addition, Anjarwalla observes that there is a big opportunity for collaboration in the field of dispute resolution. He says, “the UK will want to position itself further as a dispute resolution centre for African disputes to be resolved in London or under English Law.”

At the end of the day, the collaboration between UK and African firms is essential “to make global capital more comfortable to invest in Africa; the rule of law systems needs to evolve, just as well as the economy needs to grow,” concludes Anjarwalla.

Many of these benefits of UK and African firm collaboration are widely known: the use of English law, a shared language and, legal staff qualified in multiple jurisdictions. Yet beyond this, newer and stronger links are being forged between UK and African law firms with mutually beneficial outcomes. This is the theme of the keynote panel session, ‘UK and Africa beyond Covid-19 – collaboration and partnership between UK and African legal professionals’ at the upcoming UK-Africa Virtual Trade Mission from December 1-3.

The panel will offer an engaging discussion on issues including how firms from both regions, in the spirit of partnership and mutual learning, can provide better client service, efficiency of business operations and even better combined outcomes for the future.

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Read the original article on Africa Legal.


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