Ethiopia’s legal market has been revolutionised by change in the law around the registration of legal practices, allowing them to be registered for the first time as law firms in a move away from the previous system whereby they could only operate under the name of a single practitioner. It is the general impression that this will initiate a period of possible aggressive expansion and a shift in the dynamics of the legal market, and, while the impact has not been truly felt this year, there is a great deal of scope for this to have an impact on the size and rankings of the market going forward.
This fits in to a broader a shift in government policy to promote economic growth, primarily in the financial and renewable sectors. For the former, the government has lifted the restrictions on foreign financial entities from operating in Ethiopia and has begun to establish its own capital market, driving in turn an increase in the amount of privatisation and foreign investment. Alongside this, the government has also begun to develop a number of renewable projects as part of a general scheme to provide accessible energy for the whole country. The resulting increase in foreign investment presents a multitude of lucrative opportunities for Ethiopian law firms as they seek to assist these foreign companies in their entry into the market.
These have been overshadowed by the Tigray War between the Ethiopian federal government under the leadership of Abiy Ahmed and the Tigray Peoples’ Liberation Front, the party at the helm of Ethiopia’s ruling coalition from 1989 to 2018 (the other three members of the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front, an alliance of ethnic political parties, merged to from the Prosperity Party, the current ruling party). While the recent hostilities theoretically ended in November 2022 with an African Union-backed ceasefire, this did dissuade foreign investment, and it remains to be seen if this will change with an ongoing fragile security situation in the north of the country.