fivehundred magazine > > Interview with… David Etah Akoh, Nan & C°(Attorneys)

Interview with… David Etah Akoh, Nan & C°(Attorneys)

What unique features of practising under the dual legal system of French civil law and English common law pose for Cameroonian lawyers and clients?

The principal challenge which the dual legal system in Cameroon poses today is the incomplete internal harmonisation process of the laws (English laws and procedures and French laws and procedures). In its decision to embrace the OHADA Laws, Cameroon completely ignored the fact that the country had a bi-jural system of law and so the application of the OHADA laws in the English-speaking regions of Cameroon is not without hitches. A Cameroonian lawyer in advising a client must be cautious in drawing the client’s attention in the event where there are likely to be such hitches.

Corporate mandates for many countries in West and Central Africa have increased due to OHADA. Following attempts at unifying corporate law in the region, what new types of cross-border work or attempts at unifying legislation do you expect to see in Cameroon in the future?

There is the likelihood of having cross-border work which may lead to the need to unifying legislation in certain sectors of the economy. We readily see the need for cross-border corporations in the mining and energy sectors. For example, the Government of Cameroon is already in discussion with the Government of the Republic of Congo for the joint exploitation of the iron ore belt that stretches from Cameroon to Congo; if theses discussions go further, there might be the need to unify the mining legislation for both countries in order to give potential investors certainty in the interpretation of the relevant legislation.

We also see the possibility of cross-border work in the energy sector in the sense of transporting power produced in Cameroon into neighbouring countries.

What are the biggest challenges facing the Cameroon legal market in the next 12 months?

The biggest challenges in the next 12 months include:

– The lack of clarity as to the depth to which Covid-19 plunged the Cameroonian economy

– The lack of clarity as to the measures taken by government to revamp the economy to its pre-Covid 19 situation and the measures being put in place to lake the economy more resilient in case of future pandemic.

Covid 19 is not officially over, and so economic projections at all levels are bound to take it into consideration. In the face of such a situation, where foreign investments is slow into the country, the Cameroon legal market is bound to stagnate in the next month if it does not retrograde.

Do you consider sustainability credentials important to your firm’s business?

Of course, these credentials are important to our business, because there are factors which we use in assessing the firm is making progress.

Have ESG considerations prompted you to re-evaluate the service you provide?

ESG considerations today have become part of the issues to be integrated when advising clients. This is so because they tend to be part and parcels of the legal and regulatory requirements imposed for doing certain businesses in Cameroon.

Where do you feel your clients need the most legal support in the next 12 months?

The negative effects of Covid-19 to the economy of Cameroon can still be felt and still continue. As a result, our clients in the next 12 months will require legal support with issues relating to debt rescheduling, internal human resources reallocation, technical unemployment considerations and may be redundancies.

What sets your firm apart from competitors?

Firstly, the fact that we are permanently conscious of the presence of competitors.

Secondly, the fact that clients at all times have a second choice (fall-back position).

Thirdly, the fact that clients today are extremely fee sensitive.

Fourthly, the fact that clients prefer firms that are pro-active and prompt in providing requested legal advices.

Fifthly, the bilingual composition of our firm (lawyers able to speak and write English and French and to provide legal advice on both French and English.

Are there specific practice areas you see as particularly thriving, which you intend to bolster in coming years? Are there any new areas of practice that have emerged recently?

Specific thriving area include mining, competition law, telecom.

New areas of practices emerging include financial technology, Artificial Intelligence.

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