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Senegal’s economy grew by an estimated 6.7% in 2016, having grown by 6.5% the previous year, with projections for 2017 and 2018 also positive. Much of the growth has been attributed to the agricultural and industrial sectors, underpinned by successful structural reforms.

The country remains stable, with well-managed Parliamentary elections. A constitutional referendum in 2016, which approved shorter presidential terms – reducing terms to five years from seven – further strengthened its political system, and the country also has the highest percentage of women in Parliament in West Africa. For many, Senegal is considered a shining light in the region.

Senegal is not a new target for international investment, but it is attracting an increasingly diverse range of investors. Previously, the country saw significant interest from French investors. Now, investors are coming from elsewhere in Europe, as well as North America and Australia.

Among the most significant developments in 2017 were the discoveries of oil and gas. In May of that year, BP and its joint venture partner Kosmos Energy announced a major gas discovery offshore Senegal.

Solar projects – and power projects generally – are on the rise in the country. The country’s potential for renewable energy production (including solar, wind and biomass) is high, and power sector development has been made a key focus area by the government. A 20-megawatt photovoltaic plant was inaugurated in October 2016 in Bokhol, with the aim of supplying electricity to 160,000 people.

While historically many of the big-ticket transactions in Africa have been handled by international firms, pan-African firms are increasingly instructed on work in the region. DLA Piper has expanded its network across the continent, and other firms are looking to do the same.

Legal networks within Africa are another important source of work for independent firms. More and more firms in Senegal, and on the continent, have an international outlook and are taking key roles in major cross-border projects.

Excellent’ firm Geni & Kebe is a member of DLA Piper’s Africa group, and as an independent firm, also enjoys relationships with other leading global firms. With a clear international outlook, the firm is often instructed by foreign companies and investors on cross-border transactions. Within its team are lawyers educated in West and Central Africa, as well as Canada, France and Australia. In recent developments, the firm is opening a new office in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. In Senegal, it currently operates three offices, including its headquarters in Dakar. The firm is particularly prominent in the mining sector; in a recent highlight, the team advised longstanding client Toro Gold on its mining projects in Senegal and Ivory Coast. Energy is another major focus area, and the firm has been involved in many of the big-ticket traditional and renewable energy projects in the country. It recently advised Kosmos Energy on the establishment of operations in Senegal and related regulatory matters, following the company’s discovery of offshore gas in 2016. Mouhamed Kebe and Aboubacar Fall have ‘an excellent understanding of not only the legal but also the business environment’, making them ‘a great support and help to inward investors as well as national clients’. Codou Sow-Seck was promoted to partner in November 2016. Senior associate Mame Ngoné Sow and special counsel Louisa Gibbs are other names to note.

Houda Law Firm is highly regarded in the market. The firm is based in Dakar and has plans to open a second office in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Its diverse client base takes in multinational companies, as well as local corporations active in the financial services, media, mining, and consumer goods sectors. The firm is also a popular choice for UK and US-based international law firms. It is particularly active in the mining and oil and gas sectors, with recent work including its advice to a foreign company on a gold mine concession in Senegal. In another significant development, the firm was appointed to serve as counsel to the national oil company Petrosen alongside an international law firm. Energy and infrastructure projects are also mainstays; in one highlight, the team secured the project financing from an Asian creditor for a road and bridge project. Dispute resolution also accounts for a major part of the team’s time. Ongoing work includes its representation of a multinational company in a dispute concerning broadcasting rights. Managing partner Khaled Abou El Houda oversees the team, which includes up-and-coming associate Etienne Marque.

Established in Senegal in 1982, Cabinet Maître Cheikh FALL has since expanded its operations into Mali, Chad, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Guinea and Niger. The firm counts 25 partners in total, with around seven lawyers operating from its main office in Dakar. Its English and French-speaking lawyers are active across the gamut of business law. Clients turn to it particularly for its corporate and M&A capabilities, though its intellectual property and mining practices are also active. Much of its work is cross-border, and it maintains relationships with leading international firms. Clients include major multinationals active in financial services, technology, energy and aviation. Founder and managing partner Cheikh Fall is the name to note.

Dependable and prompt’ firm John W Ffooks & Co acts for international clients investing in Senegal and the region. The firm was founded in Madagascar in 2003 and expanded into West Africa in 2009. It has been operating in Dakar since 2014, where Vannissa Rakotonirina, who made partner in 2017 and is ‘a very responsive lawyer who shows flexibility and understands the demands of a multi-country project’, is based. Among her areas of expertise are mining, telecoms and corporate law. Senior partner John W Ffooks, who is ‘a very able strategic advisor’, is also noted. The majority of the firm’s work is multi jurisdictional in nature, with recent mandates including outsourcing, M&A and other commercial and technology agreements.

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