The countries of Africa offer tremendous potential for domestic and foreign businesses and investors. In the past ten years, the continent has experienced unprecedented growth rates, with more than two-thirds of the top ten fastest-growing economies in the world being those of key African countries. However, each African country brings its own mix of geopolitical forces, resources, and cultural, business and legal systems. Companies seeking to enter, grow within or expand beyond the region need legal advisors with a broad perspective and in-depth, cross-border experience.
McDermott has represented large international corporations, African sovereign states, African state-owned enterprises, and African and international private equity funds, privately held businesses, family offices and high-net-worth individuals. We have advised on matters in 45 of the 54 countries in Africa in all major sectors, including oil and gas, mining and metals, infrastructure, food and beverages, agribusiness, technology and—in response to the rising African middle class—retail, consumer goods and education.
We provide coordinated legal guidance to clients in all key areas of law, including corporate investments, acquisitions and joint ventures, finance (including project finance), regulatory compliance, dispute resolution (including international commercial arbitration and arbitration under bilateral investment treaties), private wealth and tax. We work with local counsel as appropriate and over the years have built strong relationships and nurtured access to the best local expertise.
Lawyers from our London, Paris, Frankfurt, Washington, DC, and other European and US offices have particular African experience and are deeply knowledgeable in both common law and civil law. African matters are often transacted under English or French law, and we also understand how and when to operate under local laws or regional uniform laws, including L’Organisation pour l’Harmonisation en Afrique du Droit des Affaires (OHADA) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).
Governance remains an important issue, and we help clients ensure compliance with applicable laws. Where the UK Bribery Act and the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) apply, compliance with those laws often satisfies applicable regional and local laws. When anti-corruption or anti-bribery investigations and other issues arise, we provide effective crisis management advice.
Regulators in Africa are increasing their scrutiny of business transactions, relationships and practices that affect their regional and local markets. McDermott’s Antitrust & Competition Practice Group is recognized as one of the world’s leading antitrust/competition practices by Global Competition Review and other preeminent ratings agencies. We provide a full range of antitrust counsel, including transactional representation, defense of government investigations and litigation, and antitrust training, and regularly help clients in Africa obtain merger control/antitrust clearances.
We advise clients on how to structure their investments and holdings to take best account of relevant local laws and double tax treaties and to obtain maximum protection under bilateral investment treaties. Political risk insurance can be a valuable risk-mitigation tool, and we also help clients work with export credit agencies and other government bodies that can provide financial support, credit insurance or guarantees.
McDermott lawyers have extensive experience in Africa-related international arbitrations, including proceedings under the rules of the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA), International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and European Development Fund (FED). We also regularly assist clients with cases before the CCJA (Common Court of Justice and Arbitration), which is headquartered in Côte d’Ivoire and is both a judicial court and an arbitration institution responsible for supervising the administration of arbitration proceedings in L’Organisation pour l’Harmonisation en Afrique du Droit des Affaires (OHADA) member states. In cases concerning OHADA law, the CCJA takes precedence over member states’ courts.
McDermott’s corporate transactional lawyers are regularly involved in all phases of M&A transactions carried out in relation to African companies and businesses across a broad range of sectors. Typically the transactions involve the acquisition by an international buyer of a stake in an African company or business, often resulting in a joint venture. The deals range from minority investments in relatively small family-owned businesses focused in a single jurisdiction, to sales of very large businesses operating in many African jurisdictions.
McDermott regularly advises private equity funds on all aspects of transactional activity, from buyouts that create new platforms, to recapitalizations, investments for growth, non-control and minority positions, and distressed acquisitions. We understand that, for many investments, the exit is as important as the acquisition; we also help clients develop and execute sound exit strategies, ranging from strategic dispositions and auction sales, to taking the company public.
Since 2003, Africa has seen a 130 percent increase in the number of ultra-high net worth individuals—those with US$30 million or more in net assets. Our market-leading tax and private client lawyers (including several lawyers of African heritage), help African and international families structure their family arrangements and address the tax ramifications of inbound, outbound and internal investments in the emerging markets of Africa. Our global perspective on tax matters is of significant value, as a large proportion of businesses in Africa are long-term family controlled (and typically offshore).