GC Powerlist Africa
- Asia Pacific: The English Bar
- Asia Pacific: Regional International Arbitration
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- British Virgin Islands
- Burkina Faso
- Cape Verde
- Cayman Islands
- Costa Rica
- Czech Republic
- Dominican Republic
- El Salvador
- Equatorial Guinea
- Hong Kong
- Isle of Man
- Ivory Coast
- Latin America: International firms
- New Zealand
- North Macedonia
- Puerto Rico
- Saudi Arabia
- South Africa
- South Korea
- Sri Lanka
- St Barts
- St Lucia
- St Vincent
- United Arab Emirates
- United Kingdom
- United States
- Latin America
- United Kingdom - Solicitors
- United Kingdom - The Bar
- United States
- Tax Directors Handbook
- What is The Legal 500?
- Meet the team
- How can my law firm get involved?
- Research calendar
- The Legal 500 on Twitter
- Contact us
- Other Legalease products
INTERNATIONAL ARBITRATION POWERLIST
- The Legal Business Awards
- Enterprise GC
- The Legal 500 UK Awards 2020
- The changing role of in-house counsel in Europe
- The Legal 500's Guide to Australia's Rising Stars
- Middle East Disputes Summit 2019
- The Legal Business Global London Roundtable Dinner 2019
- Doing business in Central America
- GC Summit Russia
- The development of Colombian compliance and anti-corruption legislation
- Cost-effective arbitration in Kuwait
- European GC's use of tech - AI Special
- The quantum of equality – The women lawyers redefining disputes
- Crisis prevention and management roundtable in Shanghai
- Legal Business 100 Roundtable
- Legal Business Legal Technology Roundtable
- Leadership insight
- Human rights insight
- MINT: the legal challenges of working and investing in emerging economies
- Response to Brexit
- An investigation of the GCC and Middle East legal market
- Litigation and regulatory challenges in financial services
- AI and the law tools of tomorrow:
A special report
- Scottish GCs
- North West clients
- Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP
- Baker McKenzie
- DLA Piper
- World Services Group
- Eversheds Sutherland
- Clifford Chance
- GC DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION REPORTS
- Shaping diversity
- A Numbers Game: Diversity in Europe
- Barbara Levi Mager describes Sandoz's approach to diversity
- Louise Pentland discusses putting diversity front and centre at PayPal
- Prash Naik (Channel 4) talks about the 360° Diversity Charter
- Ian Johnson explains the strategic importance of inclusive work environments
GC Powerlist >GC Powerlist: Africa
The Legal 500 by country
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- British Virgin Islands
- Burkina Faso
- Cape Verde
- Cayman Islands
- Costa Rica
- Czech Republic
- Côte d'Ivoire
- Dominican Republic
- El Salvador
- Hong Kong
- Isle of Man
- Ivory Coast
- Latin America: International firms
- North Macedonia
- New Zealand
- Saudi Arabia
- South Africa
- South Korea
- Sri Lanka
- St Barts
- St Vincent
- United Arab Emirates
- United Kingdom
- United States
For 28 years, The Legal 500 has been analysing the capabilities of law firms across the world. The GC Powerlist (formerly the Corporate Counsel 100) is the latest publication from The Legal 500, turning its attention to the in-house function, and recognising those corporate counsel who are driving the legal business forward. The latest edition is the GC Powerlist: Africa, which identifies an array of the most influential and innovative in-house counsel working in the region ...read more
The GC Powerlist is a series of publications, highlighting the most influential in-house lawyers in business today.
We have canvassed opinions from law firm partners and in-house counsel across Africa, to identify corporate counsel that have been instrumental in changing or forming opinions within their company or industry; developing brilliant technical solutions to complex issues; creating innovative structures to ensure that the in-house function is driving the business forward; or providing a business working model that other corporate counsel should follow. Our team of experienced researchers assessed the nominations, speaking both to general counsel and nominating lawyers to finalise each jurisdictional list. GC Powerlist: Africa features not just information on why that individual has made the list, but also comment from the law firms about how they feel individual corporate counsel have helped shape innovation in the legal industry.
If you have feedback on the GC Powerlist: Africa, or wish to nominate other in-house individuals (either in Ireland or global), please do get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We hope that this listing will stimulate debate around the role of the in-house lawyer and help corporate counsel with possible improvements and efficiencies in running their departments.
(listed in alphabetical order; click on an individual to view an expanded biography)
Ghana National Gas Company (Ghana Gas), Ghana
Coca-Cola Central East and West Africa, Kenya
Legal & compliance counsel West Africa
Baker Hughes, Nigeria
North Africa head of legal
General counsel & company secretary
Keystone Bank, Nigeria
Lynda Ait Kaci
Senior counsel - North Africa
General Electric International, Algeria
Head, legal and company secretary
Gold Fields West Africa, Ghana
Company secretary/chief counsel West Africa
Brenda Akinyi Aluoch
Head of legal transactional banking Africa
Standard Chartered Bank Kenya, Kenya
Microsoft, South Africa
Group legal counsel
Airtel Africa, Kenya
Legal manager West Africa and Angola
Company secretary and head of legal
Housing Finance Kenya, Kenya
Head of legal, group company secretary and BBBEE/EE officer
Omnia Group, South Africa
Awuraa Abena Asafo-Boakye
Company secretary and head of legal
Ecobank Ghana, Ghana
Head of legal and company secretary
Taleveras Group of Companies, Nigeria
Phase3 telecom, Nigeria
Director of legal, risk and compliance
AFGRI, South Africa
Exxon Mobil Corporation, Angola
Group company secretary and general counsel
Netcare, South Africa
Executive manager (legal and compliance)
Transnet SOC, South Africa
Samsung West Africa, Nigeria
Head of legal, risk and compliance
Bravura Group, South Africa
Company secretary, legal adviser, chief compliance officer
Africa Prudential Registrars, Nigeria
GM legal: Southern Africa region
Multichoice Africa, South Africa
Head of legal
Shell South Africa, South Africa
Head of legal – corporate finance, Africa/ senior legal counsel – corporate and institutional client coverage, Africa
Standard Chartered Bank, Kenya
Head of Legal, SA
Investec Asset Management, South Africa
GE Africa, South Africa
General counsel & GM management services; chief compliance officer
Total E&P Nigeria, Nigeria
Victoria Chelangat Sabula
General counsel and board secretary
Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), Kenya
Manager, legal services
African Export- Import Bank, Egypt
General counsel/general manager external communications
Shoreline Natural Resources, Nigeria
Head of legal and compliance
HSBC, South Africa
Tullow Oil, Ghana
Legal counsel, West, East & Southern Africa; head of corporate relations for West Africa
Nidal El Hassani
Regional legal manager
Nestlé Maghreb, Morocco
Legal manager (Ghana)
Millicom International Cellular (Tigo), Ghana
Mahomed Ebrahim Essof
Head: legal affairs
Ericsson Sub-Saharan Africa, South Africa
Country legal counsel
General manager corporate legal and company secretary
Engen Petroleum, South Africa
Head of legal: contracting South and Sub-Saharan Africa
Accenture, South Africa
Executive vice president/deputy general counsel
Crédit Agricole, Egypt
Chief legal officer and corporate services head
SWAP Technologies and Telecomms, Nigeria
Head of group legal counsel
Clicks Group, South Africa
Janine Janse van Vuuren
Head: legal and compliance
SHA, South Africa
Group company secretary and chief legal advisor (legal executive)
Senwes Group, South Africa
Dr Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu
General counsel and executive vice-chairman
Exxon Mobil, Nigeria
Mirian Kene Kachikwu
General counsel and company secretary
Head of legal
Total Maroc, Morocco
Head of legal services department and head of compliance
Co-operative Bank of Kenya, Kenya
Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems Africa, South Africa
Company secretary and head of legal
National Microfinance Bank (NMB), Tanzania
Professor William Kosar
Senior legal advisor - trade facilitation, USAID contractor
Southern Africa Trade Hub
Legal co-ordinator and company secretary
Petrobas Tanzania (PETAN), Tanzania
Head of legal, real estate affairs and compliance
Head of legal: South Africa
Anglo American, South Africa
Head legal/company secretary
Ecobank Zambia, Zambia
Zimbabwe Women Lawyers’ Association, Zimbabwe
Head of legal and secretarial services
Barclays Bank of Kenya, Kenya
Country general counsel
Citibank Tanzania, Tanzania
Head of legal
Barclays Zambia, Zambia
Senior Legal Counsel, International Corporates, Financial Institutions and Commercial Banking, Africa and Middle East
Standard Chartered Bank Kenya Limited (Standard Chartered)
Chief legal counsel, private sector operations
African Development Bank, Ivory Coast
Vice president legal: energy
Sasol, South Africa
Senior legal counsel
Liberty Financial, South Africa
Econet Wireless Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe
Head of department: legal affairs
Head of legal department and secretary to the Commission
The Fair Competition Commission, Tanzania
Chief legal officer
United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (“UNECA”), Ethiopia
Company secretary and senior legal counsel
Barclays Bank of Kenya Limited
Chief legal and regulatory affairs officer
Telekom Kenya, Kenya
Head of legal services
Equity Bank, Kenya
Regional legal manager, investment banking
CfC Stanbic Bank, Kenya
United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), Rwanda
Head of legal services
National Empowerment Fund, South Africa
Chief legal officer
Oando PLC, Nigeria
Group general counsel
Atlantic Energy, Nigeria
Oyetunde Edward Oloyede
Legal advisor and assistant company secretary
Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System, Nigeria
General counsel and compliance officer
First Exploration and Petroleum Development Company, Nigeria
General counsel and company secretary
Unilever Kenya, Kenya
FBN Capital, Nigeria
Group general counsel
Notore Chemical Industries, Nigeria
Head of legal: Southern Africa markets
British American Tobacco (BAT), South Africa
Managing director and general counsel
Head of group legal
Woolworths, South Africa
Nestlé Equatorial African Region, Kenya
Group head of legal
Elsewedy Electric, Egypt
Assistant general counsel
BP Africa, Angola
Senior legal advisor (projects)
Development Bank of Southern Africa, South Africa
Group general counsel, regulatory and ethics executive
Massmart Holdings, South Africa
Life Healthcare Group, South Africa
Head legal and company secretary
Stanbic Bank Zambia, Zambia
Head of legal department and general counsel
Growthpoint Properties, South Africa
Company secretary/legal counsel
Lafarge Africa, Nigeria
Head legal and compliance, retail clients, Africa
Standard Chartered Bank Kenya, Kenya
Ghana National Gas’ takeover by the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) was approved in 2014, with the aim of building a more integrated approach to financing national oil and gas projects. A respected industry thought leader, general counsel Enoch Larbi-Aboagye has spoken on issues such as anti-corruption, and is commended for his management of high-profile disputes.
Supporting Coca-Cola’s African business across 20 geographies, Antoinette Absaloms handled the launch of “Coke Studio” across five African countries, including all media and digital marketing components. During her previous role at Unilever Tea Kenya, she played a pivotal role in the brand’s ‘first-of-its-kind’ takeover and delisting. Absaloms feels the unique ‘diversity’ of her remit at Coca-Cola has considerably broadened her skillset and made her much better at what she does. ‘The role demands that I intimately understand my client’s business. As a result my knowledge has grown in non-legal areas like commerce, finance, human resource management, marketing, regulatory affairs and government relations; giving me an edge in providing effective legal solutions’. She would like law firms to act more like ‘business partners’, offering ‘innovative legal solutions’. She also feels a greater understanding of clients’ legal functions could be helpful. ‘In-house counsel are many times looked at as only pushing paper – perhaps an exchange program should be arranged’.
‘A consummate professional’ and ‘creative personality’, Adewonuola Adeniran has covered legal operations across Western and Sub-Saharan Africa during her time at Baker Hughes. Formerly at Honeywell, Adeniran has won the respect of internal clients and outside counsel alike with the depth of her industry understanding. In the eyes of one source, her ‘relationship-building skills’ and, particularly, her ability to ‘bridge the gap’ between legal and business operations set her apart.
In 2014, Novartis established a group-wide task force in response to the Ebola virus, bringing together expertise and resources from across the business. A ‘dedicated’, ‘mature’ and ‘motivated’ professional, Mohamed Afir heads all North African legal support for the global pharmaceutical brand. The African business has faced a number of challenges in recent years and Afir has been at the forefront of strategic decision-making. ‘Working in-house, you have to be much more practical’, he says. ‘You see the business from the inside’. Afir has made efforts to bring a lot more work in house, he says, in order to save costs and increase efficiency. ‘Communicating with outside counsel to get them to understand the issues can be very time-consuming and costly, so better to do myself unless it’s a big topic where a deep look is needed or where there are high risks’, Afir explains, adding: ‘When this is the case I have some very good relationships with law firms for collaboration’.
Balancing legal and company secretarial functions at one of Nigeria’s leading commercial banks, Michael Agamah has a sterling reputation in the nation’s financial services industry. Previously general counsel at Bank PHB, Agamah’s varied experience has also spanned Spring Bank and Guardian Express Bank. In the view of his contemporaries, it is both Agamah’s meticulous approach and his nuanced understanding of risk management in the jurisdiction, which sets him apart.
‘Being a female makes my job more challenging’, Lynda Ait Kaci says of her role supporting General Electric’s North African business. ‘Most of our customers are from the energy and oil and gas sectors, which are, by definition, a kind of man’s world – particularly in the MENA Region’. Formerly British American Tobacco’s legal head, Ait Kaci’s impressive list of past employers also includes Lafarge, where she took a deep involvement in the business’s strategic direction. In her current capacity, Ait Kaci helped establish Africa’s first industrial complex for manufacturing gas and steam turbines, generators and control systems. She has also been praised for her effective handling of the considerable security risks and regulatory changes in this unstable region. For Ait Kaci, another significant achievement has been ‘building a strong and trustful legal team within a challenging organisation’. She adds: ‘As in-house lawyers, we should not only focus on our job, but also make efforts to change the business culture and influence our environment positively’. Like many others, Ait Kaci feels law firms should behave more like business partners when working with in-house counsel. She would also like to see more pro bono initiatives in the region, particularly coming from international firms.
When Michael Akafia joined Gold Fields four years ago, he built up its entire West African legal function from scratch. As Ghana’s biggest taxpayer and one of its largest employers, building a ‘fit-for-purpose’, if ‘lean’ function was no small undertaking. ‘I dare say that we are a small legal team for a local giant and we punch way above our weight’, Akafia says. During his time in the role, he has impressed peers and clients alike with his ability to navigate major deals, whilst finding the most cost-effective solutions and navigating pitfalls without unnecessary drama. When dealing with outside counsel, Akafia suggests turnaround time, and regular communication, are areas outside counsel could commonly improve upon.
Cadbury’s West African legal head and company secretary since 2012, Fola Akande has strong credentials, having previously worked at Standard Chartered Bank, since its inception in Nigeria. Akande is well known for her commitment to the charitable sector; a pro bono adviser to the Eye Bank for Restoring Sight, she also assists Vocational Centre for the Blind. She is also a special member of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators UK (M.CIArb).
Throughout her legal career, one of Brenda Akinyi Aluoch’s driving motivations has been playing a role in the region’s development. ‘I was very clear in my mind I wanted to work in Africa – that was my passion’. With extensive financial services experience, Brenda Akinyi Aluoch has had varied achievements. Early in her career, working at Kenya’s capital markets regulator, Akinyi Aluoch assisted in drafting ground-breaking regulations still used in Kenya today. She spearheaded the nation's first unit trust registrations at African Alliance. She has also covered a broad geography across Africa, including a period in Tunisia, working for the African Development Bank, and has won multiple internal awards for her work. ‘I don’t have one biggest achievement – it’s been various milestones’, Akinyi Aluoch says. ‘For example, receiving an award while working for CfC Stanbic Bank very early in my career was encouraging and helped me set various goals going forward. That was the first commercial bank I’d worked in and I was exposed to different client segments, while working with various business units. The experience was invaluable and laid a foundation for me in all areas of transaction and commercial banking’. Since returning to Standard Chartered Bank from North Africa, Aluoch’s role has expanded from purely East Africa and now covers the whole of the continent. ‘Right now I’m at an exciting time in my career and enjoying the challenges that come with growing and developing my new Africa-wide role’, she says. ‘We have a remarkable and highly skilled team in Africa, with varying backgrounds and talents. And I work in Africa on challenging and innovative transactions, structuring solutions for local, regional and international clients. Even more exciting is the opportunity my role provides to mentor young lawyers from across the continent within the organisation’. Kenya’s legal market has seen a considerable boost in recent years, she says, following its heightened international interest. ‘In the last few years I have witnessed a surge of confidence and interest by international law firms, who have recognised the opportunities and potential in Africa and want to be involved in landmark transactions on the continent’, she says. ‘It’s an exciting time to be part of Africa’s growth story and I hope that in some way I am contributing to the continent’s development’. As one counter-effect of this huge economic resurgence, she feels law firms are sometimes overwhelmed by the sheer volume of instructions, and response times can suffer. ‘Some don’t manage expectations’, she says. ‘We now use who we think is best placed to advise on a particular matter, and therefore aim to maximise rather than concentrating on a few firms on our panel’.
With diverse sector experience, Christopher Akiwumi has ‘exceptional leadership skills’ and ‘out-of-the-box thinking’, according to sources. He has handled game-changing transactions for the companies he works for, and taken a pivotal role in building relationships with governments across the region. In 2014, Akiwumi made his most recent move to Microsoft, where he heads legal and corporate affairs for the whole of Sub-Saharan Africa. Five months into the role, and in the early days following the Nokia merger, ‘integration’, he says, is the focus. It has been a conscious move on his part, he says, to move frequently across different businesses and sectors. ‘I always try to find new challenges in and around Africa, as the continent and the people are my passion’, he explains, adding: ‘There’s always the challenge around how organisations put the strategy together and how they execute strategy in Africa. I like to be very close to and involved in applying these strategic decisions. It’s such a diverse continent with multiple legal systems, and developing legal and regulatory framework’. In his first in-house role at Barclays, Akiwumi spent three years building a legal function from scratch, covering the entire continent, excluding South Africa. He then became GE’s first in-house lawyer in the continent, where he played an intrinsic role in developing the Africa business, negotiating contracts directly with governments, and putting best practices in place. One of the greatest hurdles, he says, has been countering preconceptions and persuading the business to invest further in the region. ‘Getting the private sector to commit resources in a region that did and does not have the best compliance track record was exceptionally difficult’, he says. ‘I would consider one of my biggest career achievements to be becoming a trusted expert and advisor to multinationals’. Operating within a developing legal market, Akiwumi has made it a focus, throughout his career, to build up multi-jurisdictional law firm networks to act as a one-stop shop in major transactions. ‘As a multinational it’s much easier for us to work with a firm or “network” of firms with good reach across the continent’, he explains. ‘This helps with quality control and managing/negotiating legal fees. Additionally, having a network that understands the corporate approach to compliance and legal issues creates a partnership that helps in-house counsel manage their internal stakeholder at “headquarters”’’. These conglomerations of firms are a legacy which he has been happy to leave with each organisation as he moves on, and a model which, he says, has been followed by other in-house functions in the region. As someone intricately experienced in multinationals doing business in Africa, Akiwumi says ‘local knowledge’ is key. ‘Business in Africa, maybe more than anywhere else in the world, is very much about relationship building – that’s how you grow’.
Akinfela Akoni was already a respected telecommunications lawyer when he took up his first in-house role at Airtel Africa in 2006. Since then he has supported the Indian telecommunications giant’s African subsidiary through significant regional growth and its 2010 rebranding. Akoni has taken a pivotal role in influencing the strategy, supporting the launch of a range of new businesses. He draws further recognition for his management of internal teams and positive approach to working with the business.
‘In Africa we’re still in a position to grow – five to ten years ago, we didn’t even have mobile phones – we’ve leapfrogged from nothing’, Helen Anatogu says. ‘Unfortunately regulation has never developed as quickly, so we’ve playing catch-up, but I see that as an opportunity, because you can guide the regulators and policymakers – you can’t do that in Europe and the US, because it’s already highly regulated. Here the policymakers don’t know and they’re begging to work with people who do. You’re in a position to make a real difference’. Anatogu has been at the forefront of policy development in the region’s burgeoning technology sector, having sat on the Nigerian Ministry of Communication Technology’s committee developing a Software Business Incubation Program blueprint, two years ago. ‘From a development perspective, working with the federal government on building the ICT ecosystem is something I’m very proud of, as I see the changes start to happen in the country’, she says. ‘Even among lawyers the work isn’t done yet, but I can say at least they’ve moved on over the last few years’. A strong advocate for training, Anatogu has helped to organise a number of events, both inside and outside her organisations. These have ranged from industry focus sessions, on areas such as data protection, cloud and e-governance, to broader discussions on the role of corporate counsel. ‘Coming back to Nigeria, I find it is very much the culture that the GC sits outside the leadership team until there’s a big issue and the business realises they should have been involved in the decision-making process. How do you add value in terms of day-to-day management of business, not just crisis management, and how do you gain that seat at the table? I think it’s an integral part of who you are as an in-house lawyer’. When she first joined Microsoft, Anatogu built legal support for the whole of Sub-Saharan region, excluding South Africa, from scratch. ‘There was no corporate attorney or legal precedent in the country. When I started, we didn’t have a corporate affairs person, so I did both. I had to make sure every country where we had people we had legal entity. I had to make sure we had appropriate documentation. Make sure every individual government understood what we did as a company. I’ve been doing a lot of tuning’. During her time at Shell, Anatogu gained recognition for her management of the high profile Buncefield litigation, which set a new precedent in the Court of Appeal over beneficiaries’ trust rights. ‘I’m quite proud of that as I don’t think there had been a change in tort law for quite a long time before that’, she says. On the subject of outside counsel, Anatogu says firms should spend more time working with the business and focus on identifying future trends. ‘That curiosity to understand what I do and how I do it. More thinking out of the box in terms of what could happen’.
As head of legal and company secretarial functions at one of East Africa’s leading mortgage providers, Regina Anyika has faced a range of legal, commercial and strategic challenges. She has been required to keep pace with a constantly evolving industry, with growing regulatory demands. At the core of her success, for some, lies her ability to balance business needs against increasingly onerous compliance requirements.
During her five years as Omnia’s legal head, Celeste Appollis has driven forward its transformation from a non-compliant level to reaching at the third-highest achievable. The company was ranked fifth in the CSI category of The Sunday Times’ Top 100 companies. ‘When I assumed responsibility for the role, the department’s structure and systems were fairly rudimentary’, Appollis says. Among the most significant changes she made was the merging of legal and company secretarial functions. She also tripled its manpower to the nine-strong team across legal, compliance and administration she currently leads, and devised comprehensive processes and documentation. Appollis has been praised for her effective handling of a number complex technical issues, including a successful rights offer to fund a significant capital project. ‘I am very fortunate in that I work with an executive team that, although they may challenge me as in-house counsel in terms of delivery times, are fully supportive of the work we do’, Appollis says. ‘In particular, I have a very strong and supportive board and group executive, which helps me in fulfilling my responsibilities’.
Awuraa Abena Asafo-Boakye is widely respected for her role in Ecobank Ghana’s high profile merger with The Trust Bank, which included chairing the branding and communication committee. Heading in a lean nine-strong team, she has taken a number of steps to modernise processes and heighten efficiency, including introducing of an electronic workflow management system and devising a legal business partnership structure. For those who deal with her directly, Asafo-Boakye draws praise for her management and mentoring of the internal team, and for her continuing commitment to quality work and fast turnaround times.
During a relatively finite in-house legal career, Achadu Attah has already proven his ability to successfully implement comprehensive legal systems in diverse industries. As ‘the pioneer legal head’ for leading the global energy group’s Nigerian offering, Achadu Attah laid out the entire function’s foundations, compartmentalised into secretariat, regulatory, compliance and litigation. He had previously completed the same exercise at Nigeria’s largest internet solutions provider, Suburban Telecom. ‘Being able to put in place structures, systems and processes in the departments of the said companies as well as defining and implementing a well-articulated robust successor plan is a feat I cherish in my short career’, Attah says. In both cases, he faced the added challenge of designing legal functions within a context of regulatory flux, due to their ongoing liberalisation in the jurisdiction. Attah is also praised for his work on Talaveras’ acquisition of Power Holding Company of Nigeria’s assets, during the nation’s wide-scale energy privatisation.
‘A guru in telecoms law’, Adebayo Azeez has rare insight into the regional market, having previously worked at Globacom and Mobitel. In just two years as general counsel, he has supported Phase3 through a period of substantial growth and internationalisation, cemented by its 2014 partnership with Hong Kong Telecom. Throughout this period, Azeez has taken a guiding role in strategic planning, impressing legal and business professionals inside and outside the company with his integrity, intelligence and attention to detail. With a long history in highly regulated industries, Azeez previously spent a number of years in financial services, at the likes of IMB International, First Atlantic Bank and Union Bank of Nigeria.
Heading a multi-award-winning team, ‘truly gifted lawyer’ Pieter Badenhorst is one of South Africa’s most respected in-house counsel, known for his innovative approach. One of the best examples of this was his role in establishing the East African Exchange. Based in Nigeria, the commodity exchange was the ‘first of its kind’ outside South Africa, designed to promote the efficient trading of agricultural products. In the absence of precedents in the local market, Badenhorst’s team were called upon to draft all legal documentation, covering every aspect of the project. ‘It is very seldom that an in-house legal team can state that not only were they part of something innovative and of strategic importance, but were also the architect of a critical component thereof’, he says. Badenhorst also led the company’s takeover by AgriGroupe in 2013. The largest foreign direct investment into a South-African agricultural company ever made, it was also the ‘most important transaction in the 90-year-old history of AFGRI’. The very nature of AFGRI itself presented a unique challenge, when Badenhorst was tasked with setting up its legal and compliance function on his arrival. ‘Operating across so many sectors – food, agricultural, financial services, manufacturing and retail – is challenging but also rewarding’, he says. ‘The opportunity to develop the legal function from scratch also allows you to be the architect of your own success. Africa is going be the next bread basket of the world, so you need its food and agricultural sector to be prepared for this and it’s a massive challenge’. Six years on, as well as heading legal, compliance, risk and credit, he is an executive board member, a director to the group’s operating company, AFGRI Operations, and chairman of the risk and assurance committee. As all of this suggests, immersion in the business has been central to his approach. ‘The important factors are to a) understand your business and b) be a trusted partner to the business’, he explains. ‘We have to try to be accessible to our specific clients, so that we are the first point of reference and preferred supplier of legal services. Once the business starts realising you add value, they’re more open to approaching you’. Prior to joining the agricultural leader, Badenhorst spent over a decade at what was then Absa, and distinguished himself in his team’s award-winning handling of the Barclays merger. To this day, Badenhorst says, this remains the largest foreign direct investment in South African banking history. Alongside his other achievements, Badenhorst takes particular pride in his role as a manager. ‘I enjoy recruiting and training young legal talent and developing them to their fullest potential. Some of them have gone on to become general counsels of large listed companies and partners of top 5 commercial law firms. This gives me, personally, great satisfaction and I am very proud of them’.
Doing business in Angola is never easy, but David Baggs navigates the legal, commercial and regulatory landscapes ‘with aplomb’, according to one local source. One of the world’s largest companies, Exxon Mobil has invested over $24bn into Africa, split largely across Nigeria, Angola and Equatorial Guinea. In a jurisdiction where corruption risks are rife, Baggs has particularly impressed with his ability to balance business needs against effective risk management. He is also praised for his contribution to the long-running offshore Kizomba exploration, phase 1 of which began production ahead of schedule in 2012. With impressive global experience, Baggs has rotated between Angolan and North American operations throughout his 12 years at Exxon. He previously worked in Asia’s investment banking sector.
An increasingly respected voice in the industry, the ‘very dynamic’ Lynelle Bagwandeen is particularly praised for her approach to corporate governance, and her effective integration of its needs into the broader legal function. ‘This ensures a collective and holistic approach is taken to managing legal risk’, she explains, adding: ‘This role requires you to develop the skill of “proactive management” as opposed to “reactive management” – basically looking around corners’. Leading a 12-strong team across company secretarial and legal, Bagwandeen was promoted to Netcare’s executive committee in 2012. It is the ‘multi-faceted nature of the work’, Bagwandeen says, which gives her particular satisfaction. When it comes to outside counsel, she would sometimes like to see more ‘concise’ and ‘practically-oriented’ advice. ‘We know what the law is but would appreciate insights on how to practically embed the change, which is what general counsels are generally tasked to do’.
‘One of the things I’ve always felt is it shouldn’t just be a reactive backroom role’, Peter Balfour says. ‘My view – supported by the General Manager – is that you can prevent something arising if you are involved at an early enough stage. I’m all for the proactive approach’. Leading all Transnet’s legal and compliance work, Balfour stands out in his ‘faultless’ understanding of a complex and technical industry, and is particularly praised for his role in the company’s successful roll out of terminal operator licensing. During his 20 years at the leading logistics provider, Balfour became executive manager two years ago, and currently leads a 12-strong legal team. Since then, he has taken steps to centralise and update its operations, in an effort to increase efficiency in supporting seven commercial ports. When discussing achievements, he is quick to point to the level of empowerment the business has provided. ‘A lot of the credit must go to the General Manager. Without her support I don’t think we would have achieved to the extent we have. She is very high profile and has helped a lot in catapulting legal services to a front line function with upfront value-add, as opposed to simply being reactive to a situation’. When it comes to outside counsel, Balfour points again to the need for three-dimensional industry understanding. ‘Essentially you need to have as much knowledge, if not more, about the operations of the business as your in-house client does, or you’re not going to be able to add as much value’.
Supporting a global brand in Nigeria’s complex and evolving telecommunications industry, ‘deep thinker’ Senibo Bara-Hart faces a range of tactical and legal challenges. For some sources, Bara-Hart’s real added value comes from his effective engagement with regulators. ‘I would say that as an in-house commercial lawyer, I have come to subscribe to what I would term “Real-Business”’, he says. ‘This is done not only with a proper grasp of the academic legal issues at play, but also of the real business strategy issues involved’. Bara-Hart looks for a similarly ‘strategic’ mindset, rather than a purely ‘academic approach’, from the firms he instructs.
A ‘national derivatives expert’, Shawn Barnett has built up two in-house legal departments from scratch, and been involved in some of the jurisdiction’s most significant transactions. ‘I helped launch probably the biggest two development income funds’, he says. ‘We’ve worked on what are probably some of the biggest Black Economic Empowerment transactions. We are also handling one of the biggest early stage coal transactions. We have done a number of interesting things’. Barnett developed his niche at Norton Rose Fulbright South Africa (incorporated as Deneys Reitz Inc), which counted ISDA as a major client, at a time when the product was ‘really starting to find its place in South Africa’. He was approached by Macquarie Group to establish its South African presence and went on to structure two of the market’s largest stage dividend income funds. ‘I found the idea of having more time to focus on projects quite appealing – that was the essential reason for it’, he says of the move in-house. ‘The opportunity to get more involved in the business side of things was also quite appealing’. In both of his in-house roles, he has made it his strategy to keep a lot of work in-house. ‘You are more entrenched in these matters than the external lawyers will ever be, so you are better placed to do the drafting’.
Heading legal, company secretarial and compliance issues at one of Nigeria’s leading share registration providers, Musa Bello is pivotal to strategic decision-making at board level, and negotiations with regulators. He has been particularly proactive in driving forward corporate governance initiatives and raising awareness across the business. It was this closer interplay with the business, he says, which first drew him to an in-house career. ‘I’ve always wanted to be an in-house counsel. Interactions with the business are very challenging and it’s an exciting role to play’. Bello has diverse sector experience having formerly managed legal affairs across the whole of AG Leventis Nigeria and its subsidiaries.
‘No one day is the same’, Rebotile Bopape says of her corporate counsel role. ‘We get involved in every single element of the business, so we have a helicopter view of what’s going on and where’. When Rebotile Bopape was promoted to general legal manager two years ago, MultiChoice Africa’s now award-winning team did not have a legal department. Currently responsible for 10 countries across the region, Bopape has taken an active role in establishing processes and checks, and says one of her biggest obstacles throughout has been bringing legal into the foreground of the decision-making process. ‘The legal department is seen by many people mainly as a department that delays or hinders transactions. Persuading people that we are partners to the business and making them aware of the implications of things not being done right was a challenge – but we managed to change the mindset of our colleagues’. During her time in the role, she has supported the launch of key business products, including “BoxOffice”, and has been praised highly for her strategic management of a historic piece of litigation. Though attitudes are improving, Africa remains a patriarchal society, she says, and preconceptions on race and gender remain entrenched in the business world. ‘Being a young black female from South Africa is a big challenge. In the other African countries a lot of the males view women as the care-givers and if you’re the only female in the boardroom, telling the men you are not willing to accept their terms is not always received well. The trick is to always remain strong and never be intimidated. You just need to get on with your job’.
A Shell veteran, Stephanie Brown is praised for her ‘flawless’ management of the challenges faced by a global brand doing business in an emerging, and sometimes turbulent, market. ‘I had never had to deal with a force majeure until I came to Africa’, one source comments, ‘Political issues, expropriations and political violence only come up in certain markets. Trying to balance this against the due diligence needed by a multinational is exceptionally tough, and something Stephanie does exceptionally well’.
Starting his in-house career at Deutsche Bank in London 15 years ago, Simon Bugingo has covered financial services markets across Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Tasked with establishing Standard Chartered Bank’s legal functions across South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria, when he first arrived in Kenya there was one transaction lawyer, based in South Africa. Five years later, there are 14, spread across South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya. ‘Moving the Africa management team to Jo-burg is a definite vote of confidence to the potential within Africa, and reflects a growing emphasis on home-grown talent’, he says. During his time in Africa, Bugingo has focused on upskilling the team, through measures such as secondments with panel firms. He has also worked on promoting closer involvement with day-to-day business decisions, to the extent of physically sitting lawyers within different operational teams. Private practice lawyers could sometimes work on understanding clients’ businesses and giving more practical advice, he says. Turnaround times also, he adds, are often an area for improvement.
Following a successful international private practice career in project finance, Matthew Burchell has made it a core focus at Investec to achieve closer integration with the business. ‘We’ve tried to position the legal team as a trusted advisor to the business and spent a lot of time trying to build the legal department brand’, he says. ‘On the transactional front, we have tried to embed ourselves as part of the deal team’. Working for one of the region’s leading investment managers, Burchell has supported some of Africa’s most important deals, and it is both his technical abilities and business acumen which set him apart, according to sources we interviewed. ‘The successes are a combination of things’, Burchell himself says. ‘One of the biggest highlights of my in-house career has been the ability to drive growth in African businesses, through my involvement in a vast array of investments across the African continent. We have been involved in cutting edge deals, which needed a strong legal presence to guide the business’. Africa’s legal landscape is changing significantly, he says, with growing interest from overseas investors leading to heightened regulatory demands. ‘Africa can be a risky place to do business if you don’t go in with your eyes wide open’. As well as growing in-house legal teams to meet compliance and regulatory demands, he has observed a rush from offshore firms who recognise the business potential of entering the jurisdiction. ‘The one thing external counsel in Africa could improve upon is being honest about their skills and experience’, Burchell says. ‘It can do more harm than good if you try to wing it. Law firms can easily tarnish relationships if they don’t perform as hoped. Africa is a continent, not a country – each country’s regulatory and business environment is different and when you’re appointing external counsel you need to have the right horse for the course’.
One of South Africa’s most respected and high profile corporate counsel, Bruce Campbell is increasingly looked to as a thought leader across the Sub-Saharan region. Campbell heads a 15-strong team across South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya and Angola, which supports 35 jurisdictions. He has managed the team for 12 years, and most recently restructured the function into four regional sections across the continent. In managing a function which could potentially be thinly spread, Campbell combines streams of national and disciplinary specialisms, working closely with the broader global function. Europe*Star’s former general counsel, Campbell also worked at international tobacco manufacturer, Rothmans. He is a trustee of the Zimbabwe Agricultural Welfare Trust.
Olatowun Candide-Johnson is praised highly by colleagues and external counsel for her ability to balance an exceptionally broad remit of responsibility. In addition to legal and compliance, her role covers anything from human resources to state securities. She is particularly praised for her work on establishing the anti-bribery compliance program for Total's Nigerian Upstream business. Throughout her long tenure at the petroleum giant, Candide-Johnson has seen through the 2001 merger between Total Nigeria and Elf Oil, creating its current-day entity, and worked in the new business division of its Paris HQ from 2008 to 2011. ‘The most fundamental changes occurred really early on’, she says on the evolution of the West African legal function. ‘Traditionally we were only called in when there was trouble or to review standard contract clauses. I went to the MD in around 2003 and I said “It’s impossible to work this way – lawyers have to be involved in the business and transactions from the beginning or we can’t advise properly’’ ’. The key to achieving this in practice, she feels, was the team’s commercial acumen, and its capacity to work with, rather than against, the business in transactions.
Previously chaired by former United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan, AGRA works towards a vision of self-sufficiency in Africa. Helping millions of small-scale farmers stave off poverty across the continent, it has worked on a number of successful high-profile initiatives. As the organisation’s general counsel, Victoria is commended for her commitment to the cause and for her ability to ‘speak the language of agriculture’. Sabula, having led a 38-strong team in one of Kenya’s banking sector’s biggest in-house legal functions, advocates an efficient balance between in-house and outsourced legal services to add value and reduce costs’. Law firms’ expertise and services are good but could still be better, in Sabula’s view. ‘Whereas there is an acceptable level of specialisation in the Kenyan private practice market, there is still a lot of room for firms to manage clients’ expectations more effectively’.
Throughout his five years at African Export-Import Bank, Gerald Chihota has supported the institution through periods of extreme political unrest. As well as handling of the myriad regulatory challenges this has presented, private practice sources have particularly praised Chihota’s sensitivity to political nuances inherent in all legal and business decisions. As Barclays South Africa’s former legal head, Chihota has sterling credentials in the continent’s financial services industry.
Managing legal and external communications for the Nigerian exploration company, Lara Coker is praised for her strong business acumen. For some, one of her greatest achievements at Shoreline has been her move to firmly embed legal into the decision-making process at an earlier stage. Throughout her varied career, Coker has continually proven her versatility and capacity to master complex technical issues. She previously provided regulatory advice to diverse businesses across Arthur Andersen (now KPMG) and is an Associate of the Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria. Coker has forged a strong reputation in Nigeria’s superior courts, and was appointed as a notary public by the Chief Justice of Nigeria in 1998.
With over 20 years’ in-house banking experience, Henk Crouse first joined HSBC to establish its South African presence; a significant development in the jurisdiction’s financial services sector. ‘It was a fascinating and challenging experience, and something totally new to me’, Crouse says. ‘Our success was largely due to maintaining sight of the big picture, while working collaboratively alongside colleagues from other functions, and externally with regulators’. Crouse is rated highly by the law firms he instructs, as well as internally, where his sterling technical knowledge, common sense and leadership skills are highlighted by sources. During his time at HSBC, he has taken steps to ensure his team proactively manage risks while partnering with the business to help the group achieve its objectives. He takes a particular interest in the management of his team. ‘As general counsel for Africa, I personally take responsibility for keeping my team motivated and engaged – not only about their legal responsibilities but also about the bank and its products’. Crouse previously established the legal function for Nedbank’s retail section, in his first in-house role.
Africa’s leading independent oil and gas exploration company, Tullow Oil has led some of the most significant and high profile projects across the continent and beyond. As general counsel, Tony Djokoto has excelled in providing legal and strategic support to award-winning initiatives, and has made a signifi cant contribition to corporate social responsibility initiatives. He is praised both inside and outside the company for his proactive and forward-thinking approach to setting the corporate governance standard across the business.
As well as supporting Nokia’s Sub-Saharan African sales and marketing team, John Edokpolo heads all engagement with government and corporate social investment across West and Central Africa. Sitting on the management team, he has a strong say in the strategic direction of the regional business, and has driven forward Nokia’s standing as a thought leader. He has also impressed with his crafting of a wide-reaching anti-counterfeit program, covering multiple business lines and African countries. In the wake of the Microsoft merger, Edokpolo has been praised for his ability to move beyond the purely legal, to offering all-encompassing operational support.
Supporting Nestlé’s North African food production business, Nidal El Hassani has taken wide-reaching initiatives to educate the business on legal risk, and to raise the function’s profile. Among her greatest obstacles, she says, has been winning stakeholders’ trust and persuading them to see her as a ‘business partner’. According to sources, another major success has been the dramatic reduction in disputes she has achieved through revamping and standardising processes.
A highly experienced telecommunications lawyer, Thomas Eshun is a respected voice within the industry. During his five years as Millicom’s Ghanaian legal head, he has supported some of its most significant transactions in the region, whilst manoeuvring through an increasingly complex regulatory landscape. Previously at Unilever, Eshun is praised for his positive and proactive handling of relationships with outside counsel.
As legal director of Orange subsidiary Mobinil, one of Egypt’s three mobile phone operators, Ayman has supported some of the business’s most significant transactions of recent times. Having previously spent 13 years in Vodafone Egypt’s legal management, he is one of the nation’s veteran telecommunications lawyers. Formerly a partner at Zaki Hashem & Partners, Attorneys at Law, Essam is praised highly for his decisive leadership and commitment to managing internal teams.
Since his arrival eight years ago, Mahomed Ebrahim Essof has played a pivotal role Ericsson’s rapid growth across the region. ‘There’s always a diverse range of matters we deal with and never a dull moment’. He helped build a holistic legal function supporting the Sub-Saharan business, which now encompasses 43 territories. ‘It’s a challenging environment’, Essof says. His achievements have included developing comprehensive governance, ethics and compliance procedures, and he is particularly praised for his effective management of the company’s Black Economic Empowerment policy. He has also spearheaded efforts to bring the legal function into transactions at an earlier stage, and particularly impressed sources with his handling of risk management, amid the region’s rapidly-evolving regulatory framework.
A defining moment in Hesham Fayez’s in-house career was his role in crisis management during Egypt’s 2011 political uprising, when he led billion-dollar transactions with significantly reduced headcounts. He also supported the Bahrain and Kuwait markets during this period. ‘The learning curve in this role is incredibly inclined ’, Fayez says. ‘The exposure to different markets, regulators, managing a cosmopolitan team and seeing things through the eyes of traders are equally interesting’. In the midst of this highly pressurised environment, Fayez saved costs, implementing an innovative case-management system, among other measures.
With prestigious in-house experience spanning multiple industries, Fiona Gumede served on Coca-Cola’s 2010 World Cup project team and established current employer Engen’s group-level legal function. Gumede also sits on Engen's executive management team. ‘My role is right in the boardroom’, she says. ‘Legal is not only part of the decision-making, we also influence strategy’. Praised for her diplomacy, resourcefulness and technical flair, she has also championed diversity during her time at Engen. Like many corporate counsel in the region, she is quick to point out the difficulties of keeping up with the rapid pace of regulatory change. ‘The challenge is to strike a balance between ensuring that the business complies with legislation and creating an enabling environment for the business to achieve its objectives’, Gumede says. ‘We have developed a compliance framework, processes and programs to assist business in responding to these requirements in a proactive manner’. When it comes to outside counsel, she believes “value-adding services” such as training should be offered free of charge. She has introduced a “tiered approach” to panel selection, to facilitate selecting the right firm with the right expertise for each instruction.
During his time at Accenture, Niel Haupt has, according to sources, played a pivotal role in establishing processes and ‘transforming’ legal into a frontline function. The global management consultancy, now operating in 30 African countries, remains in growth mode across the region. Fully supporting a multinational of Accenture's nature from a legal and compliance perspective, Haupt concedes, is one of his biggest challenges, and getting a hold on the ‘intricacies’ of the global business was also a ‘steep learning curve’. When it comes to working with outside counsel, he points to the need for individual lawyers to understand their clients. ‘I think there should be more opportunity for the building up of a “relationship” with one or two lawyers who get to know our business’
With sterling credentials in North Africa’s financial services sector, Ismail Hegazy has built a reputation for his handling of major and diverse transactions within the region. He has also made an impact internally, with his introduction of specialist streams into the 30-strong team, to heighten internal client service.
As SWAP Technologies and Telecomms’ chief legal officer, Ehize Ilozavbie supports all strategic business units across engineering, network sharing and international operations. A homegrown Nigerian business, the award-winning telecom infrastructure specialist has seen considerable growth over recent years, securing considerable new investment, with share capital raised to ₦ 12bn in 2012. Proving himself highly effective in planning and executing multijurisdictional technical projects, Ilozavbie is also praised for his negotiation skills, within a variety of contexts.
Managing the legal division of health and beauty specialist Clicks Group, David Janks is praised for his ability to navigate both industries’ complex regulatory landscapes. Negotiating with the relevant authorities is an integral part of his role. According to sources, he has particularly excelled in managing strategic litigation and transactions, and in incorporating South Africa’s new Companies Act into policies and procedures. When it comes to outside counsel, he feels they can be ‘overly technical’ at times, and fail to appreciate the commercial implications of advice. ‘The external attorneys I work with most closely are generally those who keep things simple, and meet my needs in providing solutions rather than identifying problems’.
In just five years at the leading South African underwriter, Janine Janse van Vuuren has successfully driven legal and compliance into the forefront of business decision-making. She built the entire legal function from scratch over three years, and became legal, compliance and company secretarial head in 2013. ‘The legal department has made a significant contribution to the company results’, Janse van Vuuren says. ‘In terms of cost saving on external legal spend, savings on claims leakage, as well as giving the company a competitive advantage in terms of skills and expertise’. Janse van Vuuren has spearheaded training and other measures to drive forward compliance with South Africa’s 2014 TCF framework, which aims to raise professionalism in the country’s financial services market. ‘This is somewhat of a passion of mine and the opportunity to do this as part of a legal role is extremely fulfilling’. When working with outside counsel, she says, what she terms ‘a lack of realism’ can sometimes rear its head. ‘Law firms tend to forget that business is “in the business of making money” and need realistic and cost-effective legal solutions’.
After 13 years at listed agricultural company Senwes, and a past career as a Department of Agriculture economist, Elmarie Joynt has exceptional industry experience. She has received many accolades for her performance during her time at the company, most recently for her contribution to corporate governance initiatives. She is currently working with the business’s assurance arm, to develop an innovative “joint approach” to compliance and risk management. ‘It’s a journey establishing the group’s compliance on a mature level in quite a diverse business’, Joynt says. ‘There’s a lot of risk involved’. As the legal function has developed under her leadership, Joynt has been focused on driving forward a more practical and ‘solution-driven’ approach, and promoting greater interaction with the business. She has also worked closely with a local university for the past three years, where she teaches strategy and risk management and runs internships and graduate programs.
One of Nigeria’s most famous in-house lawyers, Dr Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu is an accomplished scholar and thought leader. As Exxon Mobil’s Nigerian general counsel, he is responsible for its upstream and downstream businesses in the jurisdiction, one of the global oil and gas leader’s primary African focuses. He has overseen the nation’s compliance programs and advised on issues related to anti-corruption laws across Africa. In addition to his current position at Exxon Mobil, he is also executive vice-chairman at Mobil Producing Nigeria. He has also established his own businesses in downstream petroleum, legal practice and publishing, and lectured in various institutions including Harvard University. He has three published law books on Investment Law and Contracts and numerous articles in various journals. Kachikwu previously also worked as an investment attorney in the US and as Nigeria’s Texaco Upstream and Downstream general counsel.
Mirian Kene Kachikwu is a veteran within the oil and gas industry and one of Nigeria’s most respected in-house lawyers. She is consistently praised by her contemporaries for her rounded skillset, combining outstanding analytical, intrapersonal and business skills. Appointed as Seplat’s general counsel and company secretary in 2014, Kachikwu had only returned to Nigeria a year earlier as ABB Group’s Central and West African general counsel. During her 14-year career at Shell (London), which preceded, she built a strong repertoire of high-value multi-jurisdictional projects experience and co-founded the Shell African Network UK. During her role at ABB, Kachikwu was part of the management team and played a pivotal role in business strategy and direction. She has a PhD in international investment and natural resources law and policy, and has published a book and numerous papers.
A mainstay of Total’s downstream Africa business, Total Maroc’s business model was revolutionised in 2014, when Zahid Group’s 30% share acquisition meant Total was no longer the sole shareholder. Legal head Najette Kheiri was praised highly for her handling of the transaction, which she deems ‘the highlight of my in-house career to date’. She is currently working on the company’s planned IPO on the Casablanca Stock Exchange, opening a further 15% of share capital up to investors. During her time in the role, Kheiri has made it her focus to develop comprehensive frameworks and guidelines to be applied across the business. ‘I believe that key success for a legal department is a good measure of risk and efficiency in work’. Integrating the local business function with the rest of the global brand is also an ongoing consideration in her role. ‘Total is present in 130 different countries and has to accommodate, each time, internal procedure with specificity of each country’, she explains. ‘My challenge is to offer a comprehensive solution’.
Co-operative Bank of Kenya commenced a program of wide scale redundancies in preparation for a full restructuring to promote customer focus and profitability in 2014. A ‘diligent intelligent team player’, Samuel Kibugi heads all legal and compliance functions at the bank, and has been praised for his management, during this challenging period. Having previously worked at CFC Bank, he has strong credentials in Kenya’s financial services sector. He is praised highly for his technical knowledge and project management skills.
George Klopper project managed the world’s largest thermal power systems merger, between Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Hitachi of Japan. ‘The amounts of money involved are staggering and any mistakes (legally and technically) come at a huge cost’, he says. ‘Not for the faint hearted’. During his time at Mitsubishi, he has built up the function’s manpower, developing specialist divisions, including litigation, procurement and company secretarial. He has also worked to promote greater levels of integration with the business and increase training. In a career spanning multiple industries, Klopper has headed a number of high-power legal functions. During his time as Siemens’ general counsel he worked on the drafting and negotiation of South Africa’s third cellular contract, to establish the telecommunications leader’s network. ‘That was a hard, hard-fought contract which involved tough negotiations with a foreign-based client’. The role of in-house counsel, he says, is changing in Africa, as the business expects greater levels of engagement. ‘ As corporate counsel you are in danger of losing your credibility as a lawyer if you’re not willing to provide at least an initial on-the-spot-opinion’, Klopper says, adding: ‘My colleagues in Europe and UK tell me that they experience a similar trend there. Where corporate lawyers in the past mostly advised on a reactive basis, this has now changed. They are now required to advise proactively and become part of the business and its objectives’.
NMB, Tanzania’s largest financial institution, continues its rapid growth in the region. Supporting over 140 branches, efficiency is key for Lilian Komwihangiro’s lean, ten-strong team. Among other measures, she has divided the function into units, with different specialisms, to heighten the level of service provided. ‘It is very diverse and there is always a new challenge to work on’, Komwihangiro says. When it comes to outside counsel, she feels ‘timeliness’ and ‘conciseness’ are sometimes areas for improvement.
‘Resourceful’, ‘caring’ and ‘giving’, William Kosar has built a reputation as a world-leading advisor and academic in public law and international relations. He has wide-reaching experience supporting governments and private companies across a broad range of geographies, including Afghanistan and the Middle East. The USAID Southern Africa Trade Hub aims to increase international competitiveness, intra-regional trade and food security in Southern Africa, with particular focus on customs reform, food production, trade facilitation and renewable energy. Kosar previously advised Somalia’s Ministry of Finance, through the African Development Bank’s African Legal Support Facility. In the past he has assisted Rwanda’s Ministry of Justice with policy development and drafted over 40 laws for South Sudan’s Ministry of Legal Affairs & Constitutional Development. Kosar’s particular specialisms include international business law and public private partnerships. He has authored two text books and numerous articles.
A longstanding Tanzanian resident, Brazilian oil company Petrobras farmed out offshore blocks to Shell Deepwater Tanzanian and Norwegian multinational Stateoil in 2011 and 2013 respectively. Formerly responsible for MOGAS International’s legal, HR and company secretarial functions, Neema Kweka has a strong understanding of the regional oil and gas market. One of her greatest assets, according to sources, is her ability to ‘ speak the industry’s language’. During her five years at Petrobras, she has driven forward efforts to increase the legal function’s efficiency and lower costs. She has also played an important role in procurement and presenting PETAN’s interests to government bodies.
Nezrha Lazrak was praised highly for her ‘faultless’ legal and strategic support to Holcim’s planned merger with Lafarge, which was formally approved in 2014. Since becoming the world-leading cement provider’s national legal head, Lazrak has made many changes to the function, bringing greater levels of specialisation to the team. Heading all legal, real estate and compliance functions, Lazrak has developed a 360-degree view of the regional business. It is this variety, she says, which she enjoys most in her current role. Law firms could sometimes plan ahead, she suggests, in order to anticipate client needs ahead of time, and also offer greater fee flexibility.
One of South Africa’s most visible corporate counsel, Kevin Lester received among the largest numbers of endorsements during the course of our research. He is praised widely for his innovative leadership of the global mining company’s homegrown legal function and his considerable contribution to industrywide discourse. ‘When I sit with other GCs and heads of legal in South Africa I’m the odd man out as I came in to create something new, so it’s hard for me to see the role across the industry’, Lester says. ‘I get the sense in South Africa that the role of GC has evolved enormously though. The primary focus on law has shifted towards a bigger management component. The range of issues on which I’m consulted sometimes surprised me, when I became counsel and a member of management’. Leading what is now a 39-strong group, one of Lester’s first task on arriving five years ago, was merging eight separate legal functions, resulting from a series of company mergers. By the end of 2014, headcount was reduced to 39%, legal spend was down by 32% and overall operational costs were down by a quarter. ‘It was a very big task restructuring and integrating all legal functions’, Lester says, adding: ‘The legal team at Anglo American has emerged from this period of sustained change and restructuring as a genuinely value-adding strategic business partner’. During this period he has made significant progress towards Black Economic Empowerment targets. (Lester actually founded and ran Transcend Corporate Advisors, a leader in black economic empowerment and transformation, until 2010). He also counts his role in winning the high-profile, multi-party Kumba Iron Ore litigation as a particular achievement. Decided in South Africa’s highest court, the billion-dollar litigation was, in Lester’s view ‘probably the most important South African mining law case determined in the last decade’. Lester also managed 2012’s “wildcat” strikes at the Platinum and Kumba units and the 2014 Platinum strikes. ‘The strikes of 2012 and 2014 represented an unprecedented shift in South African industrial relations’, opines Lester. ‘My team managed their delivery with great success and, in some instances, had to approach the courts to make new law to deal with the unfamiliar environment’.
Present across 36 African countries, Ecobank invested $60m into expanding its Zambian presence in 2014. Joining as legal head and company secretary in 2012, Matembo Lisimba has been with Ecobank Zambia from the very early stages of its three-year-old operations in the country. In this time, she has played a pivotal role in building up the legal, compliance and company secretarial operations, of its rapidly-expanding headcount. Most recently, she has drawn notice for her role in strategising the bank’s first fully integrated advertising campaign, “The future is pan-African”. Her move to Ecobank followed 12 years at state-owned power company Zesco, where she led support on a number of defining projects in the jurisdiction, and was also praised for her strong instincts in handling disputes.
Not-for-profit Zimbabwe Women Lawyers’ Association provides free legal advice and education, and has led high-profile regional campaigns in efforts to create dialogue on women and children’s rights. Credited with ‘courage’ and ‘outstanding commitment’, Isabel Magingure gained particularly recognition from our sources for her leadership of an inheritance law review in 2012. An increasingly respected voice, she has been vocal in the press on issues such as marital rape and cohabitation rights.
Barclays Bank of Kenya had an 11% net profi t raise during 2014 and sought approval to establish an insurance business in the jurisdiction. The Bank announced a deal with Samsung Electronics East Africa in the same year, allowing all Kenyan Barclaycard customers to purchase the Galaxy Note 4. Recently appointed to legal and secretarial functions head, Mathenge has a long history within the institution and is known for his balanced and commercial approach. Former legal affairs manager and company secretary at leading East African brand Uchumi Supermarkets, Mathenge has extensive compliance experience across both industries.
As the Tanzania Bankers’ Association legal committee chairperson, Citibank’s Tanzanian general counsel Doxa Mbapila is active in driving forward industry dialogue. She has sterling credentials in the financial services sector, having led the establishment of Ecobank Tanzania, and built its in-house legal function from scratch. During her time working across Citibank, Ecobank and Stanbic, she has participated in some of the nation’s most significant transactions, and it is this aspect of her work, she says, which is particularly important to her. ‘I chose Citibank because it has the most complex banking transactions in the market’, she says. A part of Citibank’s EMEA group, she has been building the country’s free-standing legal function from scratch, since her arrival two years ago. ‘Having a hands-on Tanzanian in-house lawyer has made it easier for the business units and support functions to obtain advice during the product structuring, approval and implementation stage’, she says. ‘I am very much a part of the business’. When it comes to outside counsel, she feels expertise and industry understanding need to be improved in some cases. ‘Based on my experience at Citibank alone, I don’t believe in-house lawyers will get value for their money unless local and international outside counsel take time to understand the Tanzanian banking business and regulatory environment’.
Barclay’s national legal head for 11 years, Bonaventure Mbewe’s full tenure with the leading global institution spans almost 20. Leading a 17-strong team split across legal and compliance, he has taken steps to reposition the team as a ‘business partner’, rather than ‘reactive’ check. According to sources, he has particularly set himself apart in his contribution to effective corporate governance processes and training at the bank. When instructing outside counsel, as well as ‘practical solutions’, he says he would like to see a greater focus on ‘efficiency’ in the service they provide. Mbewe previously covered legal and corporate secretarial functions at African insurance provider, ZCF.
'Efficient’ and ‘dedicated’, Patricia Mbugua built the credit division of Bank of Africa Kenya’s well-regarded legal function from scratch and remained their legal head until her move to East Africa Development Bank (EADB) and later to her current role at Standard Chartered in 2015. During her time at Bank of Africa, Mbugua gained recognition for her motivational and effective management style, which included incentives and structured training programs. Also in this period, Mbugua was elected as vice-chair of the Kenya Bankers’ Association Legal Affairs Committee, where she drew notice for her meaningful contribution to industry discourse, and previously published a widely-acclaimed article on the subject of asset finance, in Kenya's Daily Nation. A former Walker Kontos Advocates' partner, Mbugua has won respect throughout her career for her exceptional work and team ethic.
Annemarie Mecca’s deep public finance experience spans energy, infrastructure, financial services and trade. She is particularly known for her work on significant international transactions involving multi-jurisdictional governments and state parties. With ten years’ experience at African Development Bank, Mecca previously worked in the World Bank’s Washington DC legal team.
JP Meintjes, Sasol’s acclaimed legal vice president, is recognised for his superior industry knowledge and leadership during a defining period for the company. He is particularly praised for his role in the ground-breaking $18bn Mozambique pipeline. ‘JP, as in-house counsel has been involved from the inception to the refinancing 10 years later of the first significant cross-border gas pipeline in the region, if not the continent’, opines one private practice source. ‘His experience in the gas reticulation regulatory environment is phenomenal, and he has been influential in putting a very political and complicated transaction together’. Another lawyer interviewed points to Meintjes’ strategic approach to a spate of high profile disputes. ‘Sasol’s team is very good and has had quite a few blows recently’.
Zwide Mhlongo has led some of Liberty Financial’s biggest South African transactions of recent times, and is praised by sources for his methodical approach. ‘Part of the in-house legal function is to contribute to the structuring of a transaction in the most efficient manner so as to give effect to the commercial intention’, he says. ‘This function presents the opportunity to think laterally and “out of the box”’. On the other hand, Mhlongo says one of his biggest challenges has involved the ‘mind-set shift’ and greater business involvement of an in-house role. ‘I have had to become more accustomed to making material decisions for our business’. When it comes to outside counsel, he says the quality is very high in the market, though sometimes lawyers could do more to appreciate all dimensions of financial transactions.
Award-winning in-house counsel Ned Mojuetan’s landmark moments at the world-leading oil and gas company have included negotiating Chevron’s first deepwater block, the West African Gas Pipeline and the Gorgon Project. Currently chairing the Chamber of Commerce’s Oil Producers Trade Section (OPTS) legal subcommittee, he is a highly respected voice in the petroleum industry. As general counsel of Chevron’s expansive Nigerian operations, he has made considerable changes to the legal function; building a department strategy, streamlining, upskilling and revamping performance targets and training. Mentoring junior lawyers, Mojuetan explains, is one area of his role which gives him particular satisfaction. When it comes to private practice lawyers, ‘cost management’ and a greater ‘solutions’ focus are areas for improvement.
Heading a ten-lawyer team, supporting Barclays’ award-winning Egyptian business, Amal Moussa has been acclaimed for her handling of major transactions during Egypt’s political upheavals. She is also credited with transforming the national corporate governance structure, through the introduction of new board committees to manage decision-making and monitor strategy. She has made a significant contribution to upskilling her team through specialist training support, has made material changes to processes and standard documentation. ‘I most enjoy working with my team and take pride in seeing them drive towards team success, achieving their own personal ambitions along the way’, Moussa says.
During her decade-plus service at Econet Wireless Zimbabwe, Sheilla Mugugu has been praised for her handling of significant high profile transactions and major disputes. Mugugu previously led ExxonMobil’s Southern African legal function and served as a Ministry of Justice senior magistrate, for seven years.
‘The dynamism of the telecommunication sector and the need to be constantly alert to new regulatory changes is something not to be taken lightly’, Olaf Mumburi says. During his time at the market leader, he has led the sale of Vodacom’s assets to Helios Towers Africa subsidiary, HTT Infraco, involving over 1,000 towers, and has handled all aspects of his employer’s changing business model. Heading a lean legal function, Mumburi has led efforts to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of processes, with key focuses including due diligence and document templates. ‘I would like to see more specialised law firms not only in the telecom industry but also other industries’, he says. ‘For example, when dealing with telecom disputes such as interconnection, roaming, tax, radio frequency and spectrum issues and so on’.
Heading all legal and company secretarial functions at Tanzania’s Competition Commission, Crispin Bebwa Mwebesa has focused on revamping processes and procedures to optimise risk management and strategic direction. ‘In a short period of time, I have managed to modernise the role of the legal department from being a mere legal advisor to being a partner in commercial decision-making’. In an in-house legal career comprising broad sector exposure, other highlights have included overhauling power company Tanesco’s legal function and helping to establish JTI’s Tanzanian subsidiary, JTI Leaf. Mwebesa has provided pro bono legal services to children’s groups through the Tanganyika Law Society.
Operating across Northern and Sub-Saharan Africa, Africinvest is one of the most experienced private equity investors in the region. As chief legal officer, Rafik Mzah has drawn notice for his deep-rooted industry understanding and his ability to balance growing regulatory demands with a business-friendly approach. With strong commercial expertise, Mzah previously practised at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP.
With over a decade of United Nations experience spanning Kosovo, Sudan, South Africa and now Ethiopia, Sibangilizwe Ndlovu has an intricate understanding of international law. During his time at Darfur’s African-Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation (UNAMID), he trained military professionals on Law of Armed Conflict and conducted a comprehensive land occupation contracts review to save costs. Previously Phumelela Gaming and Leisure’s group legal and compliance officer, he made a significant contribution towards the business’s adherence to gambling, black economic empowerment and other regulations. He also developed a significant transformation strategy for the company.
'An excellent team player', Paul Ndungi has over a decade's financial experience, joining Barclays Bank of Kenya in July 2015. In his previous role as Ecobank Kenya's legal head, Ndungi stood out for his efforts to cement ties with the business and increase involvement with strategic decision-making. ‘We have an important role to play in organisations that needs to be highlighted’, he says on the role corporate counsel. When it comes to private practice, he suggests firms could improve relationships with clients, by managing expectations more effectively, particularly in relation to deadlines.
Ivy Ngana has impressive credentials in both telecommunications and insurance, with past roles including Jubilee Holdings’ legal head and Airtel Networks Kenya’s legal manager. Currently heading all legal, regulatory and company secretarial support at Telkom Kenya – Orange, Kenya’s sole landline provider, she has successfully streamlined operations, improving both efficiency and results. According to sources, she particularly excels in her handling major transactions and disputes. ‘Many people believe lawyers complicate transactions’, Ngana says. ‘Hence l try to support the commercial departments in a way that l ensure the company is not unduly exposed, but at the same time l don’t slow down the process with unnecessary legal bottlenecks’. When it comes to external counsel, she says firms should sometimes focus more on alternative dispute resolution before issuing proceedings.
John Njenga, a former Njenga Mbugua & Nyanjua founding partner, was praised for his role in Equity Bank’s incorporation of subsidiary Equity Bank Kenya in 2014. Njenga was previously Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Kenya’s discipline and regulation manager, giving him a unique insight into compliance in the nation’s financial services sector.
‘It is always refreshing to be associated with award-winning transactions’, Beatrice Njeru says. An influential figure in Kenya’s banking industry with wide-reaching specialisms, Njeru is among East Africa’s most technically skilled transactional lawyers, according to sources. Working as part of a global team, Njeru has led some of the region’s largest transactions, and driven forward developments in investment banking’s standardised documentation. As a Loan Market (East Africa) Committee member, she presents regularly at seminars, and is one of the jurisdiction’s most influential industry voices. Her greatest challenges, Njeru says, relate to lack of clear-drafting in transactions, as well as the rapid pace at which laws can be changed in the jurisdiction. ‘With the growth in African economies, the bulk of certain development activities and related transactions originating from the developing countries – including those in Africa – it is a big step forward to have in-house lawyers based in those jurisdictions who are very familiar with the local laws and clearly understand the market practice’, Njeru says. ‘I am glad to be an in-house counsel in East Africa driving this agenda forward, and so far quite successfully’.
In the two years since it was established, MINUSMA’s efforts to stabilise relations in Mali have focused on maximising security, monitoring human rights and humanitarian assistance. Hervé Ntege wins respect both inside and outside the UN for his dedication, conciliatory approach and multi-layered understanding of African international relations. A committed advocate for social change, Ntege is also secretary general to the African Network for the Prevention and Protection Against Child Abuse and Neglect (ANPPCAN), Rwanda Chapter. The pan-African network partners with others to protect children throughout the region.
‘I think I’m a lot more relaxed than when I started two years ago’, Nthabiseng Ntsele says of her role at the National Empowerment Fund. ‘Now it’s just keeping the momentum going’. Praised widely for her positive and innovative approach, Ntsele has shown her commitment to improving social welfare throughout her career, having previously focused on major international development projects. Supporting both legal and compliance at the Industrial Development Corporation of South Africa, she worked on funding a major water purification project in Sudan and a biomass waste project in Mpumalanga. Becoming legal head for the body tasked with bringing South Africa’s Black Economic Empowerment policy to life, has meant both a change in step and considerable new management responsibilities. Ntsele thought long and hard about how she was going to approach this, she explains. ‘I’m heading up a team of 13 lawyers – the biggest challenge I had was how to inspire them’, she says. ‘I don’t really do the “You have to be here at 8, you have to take lunch from 1 to 2”. I try to focus on the person and what they are good at and how I can get the best out of them’. Ntsele is affiliated with the Institute of Directors of South Africa and the Association for Black Securities and Investment Professionals. She is also an Andre Dreyer Motors director and a former trustee of the South African Intellectual Property Fund.
Ngozi Okonkwo led the ConocoPhillips purchase – Nigeria’s biggest upstream acquisition of 2014. Managing a 15-strong team, Okonkwo overseas all upstream, midstream and downstream operations. Her wide-reaching changes to the legal function include introducing formalised training and strategy meetings, and internalising higher levels of advisory work. ‘I have been fortunate enough to get a great deal of experience in my current role, which many of my peers can only dream of ’, Ngozi says. When it comes to instructing outside law firms, she is looking for ‘articulate and concise opinions’, and says sometimes advice comes with too many additional questions, or is ‘too academic to be useful’.
Formerly Templars' youngest partner, Dayo Okusami was not only Atlantic Energy’s first group general counsel but its first employee. As such, he was tasked with building the entire legal function from scratch in parallel with the business itself. ‘Because I had a good reputation in the oil and gas sector in Nigeria, the attraction of a start-up company still involved in deal-making was very attractive’, he explains, adding: ‘I don’t know where I’ll be from one week to next ’. Leading a five-strong team of legal, corporate and procurement specialists, he also heads corporate secretarial and sits as director of some international companies in the group. ‘I would say my role is slightly different from most but it’s not unique’, he says. ‘It’s a small company so I have direct access to and a good relationship with the CEO. We have been in the trenches together. There’s also a very business-oriented side of what I have to do. This business involvement has amended my thinking – I’ve become much more of a commercial lawyer’. Okusami has negotiated billion-dollar contracts, working across Nigeria, the UK and America. Operating in Nigeria’s relatively unchartered territory brings a ‘unique’ element to the deals he is negotiating, he says, with added challenges created by the unpredictability of the country’s legal, compliance and business environments. ‘Nigeria already has the reputation of being the Wild West so you need to be able to do things properly. That’s a constant challenge’. The level of skilled in-house lawyers has grown considerably in recent years, he says, and he has seen a huge trend towards lawyers leaving the biggest firms to become general counsels. This, he attributes in large part to economic growth and the rising numbers of international companies entering the jurisdiction. ‘The Nigerian economy is now either on a par with, or larger than South Africa. Nigeria is also somewhat central – it’s six or seven hours from Europe. It’s English speaking. A lot of international companies base their Central, West African or Sub-Saharan quarters in Nigeria. This international backdrop also adds to the focus on increasing compliance’.
‘An innovative thinker’, Oyetunde Edward Oloyede is ‘a results-oriented and very professional lawyer’, with ‘an eye for detail’ and a ‘strong commercial mindset’. Among his biggest achievements at leading electronic payments specialist Nigeria Inter-Bank, was his management of its multi-billion Inland Revenue tax collection project. He also drafted a series of agreements that have become templates across the electronic payments and shared services industry. Oloyede was previously a senior associate at LegalHouse Solicitors, specialising in litigation, and is a qualified chartered secretary and administrator.
Defolu Olufon has led First Exploration and Petroleum in some of the largest recent upstream acquisitions happening in the region. Managing a small team of legal, compliance and commercial staff, Olufon has headed the legal function since the company was first established in Nigeria in 2012. An expert in anti-corruption matters, Defolu has been widely praised for developing the business’ sophisticated corporate governance program.
Inviolata Oriwo has distinguished herself in a number of areas during her time as general counsel and company secretary for Unilever’s Kenyan operations. The organisation has been singled out for its exemplary compliance regime; she has led a piece of ‘mind-blowing litigation’ which impacted on the interpretation of national marketing law; she has also drawn attention for her progress in repositioning the legal function as a strategic business partner. Oriwo has extensive experience in the banking and FMCG sectors, including a deep knowledge of cross-border transactions.
As investment banking and asset management specialist FBN Capital’s general counsel, Irene Otike-Odibi is ‘one of the best’, according to sources. She draws particular mention for her contribution to corporate governance and due diligence processes in the bank. A former Adepetun Caxton-Martins, Agbor & Segun senior associate, Otike-Odibi’s specialist expertise include private equity and joint ventures.
‘A very smart switch-on guy’, Dapo Otunla heads a lean three-strong team, supporting Notore Chemical Industries’ entire business operations. Otunla has made considerable changes to the company's legal function since his arrival six years ago. Among his most tangible results has been the establishment of cohesive risk-management procedures. Otunla has impressive international transactional experience, having practised at the likes of Mayer Brown and King & Spalding LLP in the US.
‘As part of the leadership team of the Southern African markets, I am a South African-qualified lawyer, but what I’m bringing is strategic value to the team’, Priyan Pillay says. Pillay is dealing with increasing levels of regulatory change across the region, as more and more governments turn their attention to tobacco. As the April 2015 deadline for incorporating Namibia’s substantial law changes approaches, Botswana, Zambia and Angola all look set to follow a similar path. Previously a senior associate at DLA Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr, moving in-house had never been his original plan, Pillay says, but when BAT headhunted him, the opportunity was too good to miss. ‘It was a tough choice for me at the time, as it was always a goal of mine to become a partner at a leading law firm, and I was heading in the right direction towards achieving that goal. In the end I decided legal practice will always be there and the opportunity at BAT was a unique one’.
As managing director and general counsel at leading financial services institution Swicorp, Edouard takes a guiding role in the business’s strategic direction. Leading a small team, Pontet was singled out by sources for his focused and commercial approach to legal advice, and his deep emersion in the private equity market. Admitted to the New York and Paris Bars, Pontet has practised at Coudert Brothers and Herbert Smith Freehills LLP.
‘The excitement lives on day in-day out and the people you work with are so passionate about what they do that you immediately fall in love with the job’, Mateboho Rantofi says on her role. ‘I don’t see it as “just a day job”, it’s my life’. Praised by industry sources for her energy and results-driven approach, Rantofi played a pivotal role in Woolworths’ transatlantic purchase of David Jones, widely recognised as ‘the biggest deal in history that South Africa has seen in a retail acquisition’. Throughout her time as the iconic brand’s South African legal head, she has made great efforts to increase the function’s involvement with the business. ‘We have built better relationships with the business through meaningful engagements and offering commercially sound legal solutions’. Like others interviewed, Rantofi acknowledges gender, race and age can create further obstacles to contend with in the nation’s boardroom culture. ‘It has always been challenging being a young black woman in the corporate South Africa and every day remains a challenge. Sometimes this is the most exciting part of the job (on some days less so!)’.
‘I enjoy the challenges of working in a multinational that operates across many countries and cultures in Africa’. Reena Shah is praised widely for her outstanding commercial acumen and lateral approach. In her former role as restaurant review website Eatout’s chief legal officer and sales and marketing director, Shah impressed sources with her flawless handling of a dual legal and business role. She is also praised for her broad and practical understanding of compliance needs within the region. Shah has been active in charitable work throughout her professional working life, most recently chairing social action group, Oshwal Youth League.
‘One of the most professional lawyers in Egypt’, Mahmoud Shaarawy built Elsewedy Electric’s legal function from scratch. Now heading a 14-lawyer team supporting operations across 74 national and international companies, Shaarawy negotiates contracts in English, French and Arabic. He has also worked closely with the company’s executive board to ensure compliance with corporate governance and Egyptian Stock Exchange rules. It is the broad international exposure of the work, he says, which gives him most satisfaction.
Heading ‘the best in-house legal team in Angola’, Karin Sinniger has been nominated for her outstanding contribution to the jurisdiction. Sinniger has made it a focus to train local lawyers, and has been particularly active in encouraging the advancement of women within the legal function. When dealing with outside counsel, Sinniger suggests advice could sometimes be more ‘succinct, practical and commercially oriented’. Outside Angola, Sinniger manages legal operations across Egypt, Algeria, Libya and Morocco. In addition to winning a number of significant contracts across these jurisdictions, she has also managed the repercussions of ongoing political unrest.
Zukiswa Sithole has been praised highly for her role in South Africa’s Renewable Energy IPP Procurement Programme (REIPPP), one of 2012’s leading developments in the region. ‘The biggest challenge has been ensuring the team operates as one, particularly during the peaks of the IPP Programme, which demanded quite an enormous amount of time and attention’, she says. Heading a four-lawyer team, she gains particular satisfaction from the variety of her role. ‘I still do some of my own transactional work and oversee the work of others so I enjoy interfacing with other lawyers in negotiations’. When it comes to external counsel, Sithole raises the common issue of fee flexibility as an area for consideration. ‘I think that external law firms need to start thinking about creating relationships with their clients that are not mainly based on meeting budgetary constraints, but rather relationships that are sustainable and based on trust and optimal output for the client’.
‘An enthusiastic leader with excellent creative, strategic thinking’, the ‘charismatic’ Michael Spivey is commended by sources for his handling of the integration process, following the Massmart/Walmart merger, two years ago. Heading a 15-strong team, Spivey has taken extensive steps to formalise Massmart’s South African group legal structure. ‘Attracting talent’, he says is a particular challenge in the South African in-house market, and especially when it comes to multinationals. With in-house experience spanning Eastern Europe and America, Spivey’s previous roles include Export-Import Bank of the United States’ assistant general counsel and director of business development. When it comes to outside counsel, he feels some could do more to ‘understand the bigger picture’ the client is operating in.
One of South Africa’s largest listed companies, Life Healthcare Group owns and manages more than 60 hospitals across South Africa, and has extensive international investments. Mark Stafford’s five-strong team supports the entire group and has been widely recognised as one of the nation’s leading in-house legal functions, praised particularly for its innovative approach. Recent work includes divesting 49.6% of Join Medical Holdings and ongoing hospital division restructuring, as well as multiple cross-border investments. Previously at Aspen Pharmacare, Stafford has solid industry knowledge.
Stanbic Bank invested more than $350m in developing Zambia’s energy infrastructure in 2014, following a series of ground-breaking transactions in the sector. These included its financing of ZESCO’s project to connect the North Western Province to the national grid and acting as lead arranger and debt advisor in the Copperbelt Energy Corporation’s rights offer. As head of legal and company secretarial functions at the bank, Doris Tembwe is known for her strong engagement with the business, and prides herself on ‘partnering’ with them. In her tenth year at Stanbic, she has a wide-reaching understanding of its lines and structure, with experience spanning credit and collateral. She has also managed legal support at security trustee subsidiary, Stanbic Nominees.
Award-winning legal head and general counsel Madeleine Truter is a well-known figure in South Africa’s in-house legal community. She has played a pivotal role in Growthpoint’s ambitious expansion plans, most significantly in the creation of South Africa’s largest REIT. Truter also managed the company’s American Deposit Receipt (ADR) program with Bank of New York Mellon, aiming to attract US investors, by giving them the opportunity to buy dollar-denominated shares in the company. ‘Madeleine’s involvement in the Growthpoint ADR program allowed her to be instrumental in putting South Africa on the map as a choice for REIT investors, and allowing small investors to obtain exposure to large commercial property’, says one industry source. Truter has also spearheaded a number of initiatives relating to external counsel, including negotiating new fee arrangements and upskilling the existing panel. She is also recognised for her firm commitment to pro bono work, through Growthpoint’s CSI initiatives.
Lafarge Cement WAPCO Nigeria rebranded to Lafarge Africa in 2014, following a series of strategic transactions across Nigeria and South Africa. Previously Nigerian legal head, Uzoma Uja remains company secretary at the new entity, with a remit including M&A, project finance, compliance and competition. With over five years’ experience at the global brand, Uja previously had a long history in the financial services sector, working at First Inland Bank and First Atlantic Bank, in a variety of legal and compliance roles. Educated in Nigeria and the UK, Uja is also an associate member of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (UK).
Heading a team that works across ten jurisdictions, Irene Wamakau excels in multiple aspects of her role, according to sources. During her time leading the dual-function legal and compliance department, Wamakau has actively promoted greater business focus, with initiatives including focused wide-reaching training programs. Most recently in the case of FATCA, she held knowledge-sharing sessions with regulators and banking associations across Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, South Africa, Zambia and Botswana. ‘My biggest challenge remains managing stakeholders across ten different countries, who are not legal practitioners, and helping them to understand positions taken by the legal team’, Wamakau says. On the flipside, the ‘diversity’ of her team and her role is also the thing she enjoys most. ‘Having to keep myself informed and updated across all the different markets just helps me grow all the time’.
DLA Piper Africa
DLA Piper Africa is delighted to be the inaugural sponsor of the GC Powerlist Africa. Doing business in Africa offers unique opportunities and challenges and we are happy to be part of something that recognizes those Corporate Counsel who are driving the African legal profession forward.
We fully recognise the need to understand the cultural, economic and political nuances that exist across this vast continent. DLA Piper is one of the most active law firms on the continent. DLA Piper Africa brings together leading law firms and has created the ability to operate on a pan African basis with very strong national and regional expertise supported by the global resource and knowhow of DLA Piper’s 4,200 lawyers based in the Americas, Asia Pacific, Europe and the Middle East.
Sharing best practice and knowledge enables us to service clients on a global, international and local level with the best legal advice. Our knowledge of the key sectors Energy, Infrastructure, Banking and Finance, Private Equity, Oil and Gas, Mining and Minerals, Hospitality and Leisure, Telecommunications and Insurance is built up by our teams working globally including in the rapidly developing markets in Africa.
DLA Piper Africa is together building the leading integrated business law service in Africa. This involves not only great lawyers but also the wider infrastructure to support and develop the people and offices across the continent. Our co-ordinated programmes are designed to share and develop knowhow through technical training and sector knowledge. We have created comprehensive file management and practice management systems as well as compliance, insurance, risk strategy and coordinated HR and career development processes all based on global best practice.
We look forward to continue working with leading Counsel across Africa in the future.
GC Powerlist: Deutschland 2014
GC Powerlist: Deutschland, first published in September 2014.
Click here to download a PDF copy of the full listings.
GC Powerlist is a trading name of The Legal 500 Series and Legalease Ltd, and operates in multiple legal jurisdictions world wide.