The current COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the globe is not stopping leading African law firm, Bowmans, from moving forward.
Less than a year after it announced it was opening a new office in Mauritius and entering into an alliance with Assefa & Associates Law Office in Ethiopia, the firm today announced that it is expanding into Malawi and Zambia.
The move has been described as ‘a bold step in uncertain times’. Chairman and senior partner, Robert Legh says, ‘Now, more than ever before, we are focussing on our vision of being the pre-eminent African law firm serving our clients wherever they are on the continent’.
Despite the COVID-19 uncertainty, the tie ups with Malawi and Zambia are timely. Both countries are in the World Bank’s top 10 Sub-Saharan Africa countries in terms of ease of doing business for 2020 after having been ranked, in 2018, among the world’s 10 most improved economies when it comes to regulatory reforms that make it easier to do business.
Trade and investment in Africa were increasing prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and are expected to pick up again in due course.
Legh says, ‘Our clients will be among those leading the way. We’ve been planning the expansion for some time. We decided to press ahead so we’re ready with an experienced team of local lawyers in key markets to help them harness these opportunities when the time comes.’
‘Another consideration in our decision was the important roles that both Malawi and Zambia they play as part COMESA,’ he continues.
The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, known as COMESA, is the regional free-trade area comprising 21 member states. Malawi hosts the COMESA Competition Commission, which is responsible for enforcement of COMESA competition law. Zambia hosts the COMESA Secretariat which is responsible for economic and trade policies for the bloc.
In Malawi, Bowmans is teaming up with Elton Jangale, who manages PFI Partnerships (PFI). Jangale is a barrister and chartered accountant with more than 18 years’ experience in transaction advisory services.
PFI’s work extends from COMESA competition law and mergers and acquisitions law to project finance, public-private partnerships (PPPs), corporate and finance law, and regulatory compliance. Over the years, PFI has given critical support to people and multinational enterprises conducting business and trade in the COMESA region.
Bowmans and PFI have a number of clients in common and have worked together previously. Legh says, ‘The tie up will benefit our clients because it formalises an existing relationship and enables us to work together more closely to provide a seamless service in the competition and commercial law space, not only in Malawi, but in the region as a whole.’
Jangale says, ‘I’ve been working with Bowmans for some time and I am familiar with the way they operate. This is a great opportunity for my firm and for Malawi to join a truly pan-African business whose focus is on improving access to high-quality legal services for its clients.’
The new office in Zambia, registered according to Zambian law as B&M Legal Practitioners, will start with two partners: well-respected senior practitioner, Mabvuto Sakala, who has 18 years’ experience in corporate, commercial, banking and public policy advisory work, and dispute resolution, will serve as the firm’s managing partner. Bwalya Chilufya-Musonda, a seasoned lawyer who specialises in mergers and acquisitions, competition, banking and finance, capital markets, and tax law, is the other partner. They will be initially supported by two senior associates.
Commenting on the decision to join Bowmans, Sakala says the firm’s commitment to the African continent was one of the deciding factors for him and Chilufya-Musonda, as was the nature of complex work that the firm routinely handles for its clients.
‘We are looking forward to being part of the Bowmans team and working on matters of this nature,’ he explains. ‘Bwalya and I have previously worked with Bowmans on several occasions and we share in Bowmans’ vision. We think that our partnership with Bowmans will be of great value to our clients as we’ll be able to leverage on the team’s depth, experience, diligence and professionalism.’
As a result of these developments, the Bowmans brand is now present in eight key African countries: Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mauritius, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia with nine of its own offices in seven jurisdictions.
‘We are very excited about these developments,’ says Legh. ‘We believe in Africa’s potential and are committed to supporting our clients and our people, as they seek to unlock opportunity, overcome challenges and realise the hopes that will shape the future of the continent.’
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