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AfricaMoney | November 7, 2016

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Africa’s largest law firm to open Mauritius office next month

Africa’s largest law firm to open Mauritius office next month

ENSafrica Chief Executive Piet Faber believes Mauritius is a lot more business friendly than South Africa. (Image: FINANCIAL MAIL)

Africa’s largest law firm ENSafrica will be going live with a fully integrated Mauritius office on December 13.

Its focus on the island economy is clear, with a substantial office being planned comprising six partners and a total headcount of 30. This will make it the biggest office for the company outside of South Africa.

Many investors use Mauritius as a gateway to invest in Africa, so ENSafrica believes that their new office will fit in nicely with its overall Africa strategy.

Moreover, Mauritius also has a strong economy in its own right, growing at 3-4%, with 50% of all foreign investment routed through Mauritius being directed at Africa.

Chief Executive Piet Faber feels the island economy straddles both Africa and the Indian Ocean area of influence.

Further, the company believes that Mauritius is a lot more business friendly than South Africa.

Faber highlights both the administrative capabilities and labour laws at Mauritius as being best-in-class.

With more and more international law firms opening in Mauritius, it gives the island economy ammunition to counter allegations that it is a ‘tax haven’. Armed with world-class legal representation, the Indian Ocean nation can tell the world with greater credibility that it is indeed a low cost tax jurisdiction, with an economy of substance.

As African countries usually grow on the back of foreign development, ENSafrica believes what is needed to extract that potential and wealth is for investment in resources, but having capable law firms advise on doing business in a specific country and at the same time protect its interests.

Faber feels that African firms must position themselves so they can advise investors, which is why it is critical African firms develop expertise on ground.

A concern for companies in Africa 10 years ago was that between 80%-90% of all legal spend was leaving African shores, with the legal fees being earned by some of the global elite firms in London and Paris.

Faber rues that this situation existed even in their biggest market of South Africa in the absence of African firms with enough critical mass, or specialist areas, to compete for elite legal work.

The fees charged offshore were also a lot higher than could be charged locally. But in the last 10 years, there has been a great deal of consolidation and a couple of strong firms (in South Africa) have emerged. Those have now built the necessary critical mass and deep specialist areas.

Faber noted that there is no need to approach overseas firms for big projects anymore. He believes that the next obvious place for South African firms is to export that notion and develop the skills on the continent so that true African firms are developed.

Meanwhile, in line with its Africa expansion strategy, the company has set up fully up-and-running integrated Rwanda and Burundi offices this year, too. Also, it formally launches an office in Uganda next year.

During the year the company has been in various stages of opening offices across the continent to build on its existing network of 550 lawyers — the biggest of any firm.

Source: Business Day

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