Legal market overview
One of the poorest countries in the world, Burundi is currently undergoing a period of extreme political unrest. Government elections in 2015, which saw President Pierre Nkurunziza elected for a controversial third term, provoked widespread protests and ongoing violence in the country is rife. As a result, many locals have fled and day-to-day business is extremely limited, with severe press restrictions and the widespread closure of many businesses a challenge for many.
Notwithstanding its troubles, Burundi is attractive in terms of commodity resources: it has strong potential in agriculture – where valuable exports include cotton, coffee and tea – and in the mining sector, with unmined or underexploited nickel, gold and platinum reserves. Energy is at a premium and inward investment in renewable energy is being sought to meet growing consumer needs.
The ongoing troubles have destabilised the economy and caused a decline in legal work, but a number of firms remain active, although some have moved to practise from neighbouring countries and the ranking includes law firms offering legal advice from outside Burundi. Most notably, the Kigali office at ENSafrica | Rwanda | Burundi is now home to the firm’s Burundi practice following the recent closure of its Bujumbura office due to safety concerns. The legal market is home to a number of well-established local firms, with the majority servicing clients generally, in a variety of practice areas.
Operating as part of the ALN (Africa Legal Network) alliance, Mabushi Chambers has a solid reputation and is well versed in working in the challenging business climate in Burundi. It is instructed by a range of domestic and international clients across key areas of expertise including banking, finance, corporate, commercial, employment, IP, real estate and construction law. The firm also has litigation and arbitration capability. Managing partner Augustin Mabushi is highly regarded in the local legal market.
The ‘strong’ team at Rubeya & Co – Advocates enjoys an increasing profile in the local legal market, and advises on a range of corporate and business law mandates. Its key strengths span employment, intellectual property, technology, real estate, tax, projects, litigation and regulatory work. The firm leverages some lines of work through its membership of the DLA Piper Africa network and recently advised the International Finance Corporation (IFC) on the implementation of the Africa IC Power project in Burundi. It also provided contractual advice on a matter between a national telecoms company and a Chinese communications service company. Other clients include Eastern and Southern African Trade and Development Bank (PTA Bank), Toyota Burundi and Engen Petroleum Burundi. Managing partner Willy Rubeya has ‘a great reputation’ and is ‘excellent’ in public-private partnerships, telecoms, mining and infrastructure projects. Claver Nigarura heads the corporate and commercial department and Yves Ntamashimikiro is adept at advising international clients on inward investment in Burundi. Ida Djuma is well versed in disputes work, while Anatole Nahayo provides a range of tax-related advice.
The Kigali office at ENSafrica | Rwanda | Burundi is now home to the firm’s Burundi practice as a result of the recent closure of its office in Bujumbura. The practice has core expertise in banking and finance law, secured transactions and acquisitions. The team advised Mirabaud (Middle East) on a $55m loan to finance the acquisition of a Burundian telecoms company and is advising Gigawatt Global Burundi on the establishment of an energy company, as well as the construction, operation and maintenance of a 7.5MW solar power plant. It also continues to advise Pala Investments on its investment in a Burundian mining company. Other clients include Dubai Aviation Corporation and Société Immobilière Publique. Gilbert Nyatanyi and Désiré Kamanzi are recommended figures in the experienced team.
Tanzania-headquartered Mkono & Co has an office in Bujumbura, from where it provides clients with corporate and commercial advice, as well as IP, finance and dispute resolution services.
The Bujumbura office of Shonubi, Musoke, Gilbert & Partners operates in alliance with Norton Rose Fulbright and provides corporate, M&A, securities, tax, banking, finance, employment, litigation and IP advice. Managing partner Gilbert Nibigirwe is recommended along with Eric Ngendahayo, who is experienced in banking and finance transactions.