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Commercial legal practice in Africa: ALSF concludes Stakeholder Forum

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Stakeholders working in development and law met in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, from November 21-22, 2016 to discuss the role of the African Legal Support Facility (ALSF) within the context of the broader development agenda; and, in particular the linkages between Africa’s development priorities and commercial legal practice.

Convened by the ALSF, the inaugural Stakeholder Forum was held to set out strategies and priorities for ALSF’s second Medium Term Strategy (MTS) for 2018-2022.

Participants at the Forum included African legal professionals and development practitioners from the African Development Bank (AfDB), KfW, members of the ALSF’s governing bodies, the African Business Law Firms Association (ABLFA), Canada, Netherlands, the World Bank and private practice lawyers.

In his keynote opening address, Charles Boamah, Vice-President of Finance at the AfDB and Chairperson of the ALSF Governing Council, said that the ALSF has an important role to play through its interactions with governments and that the inter-linkage of law and development is important.

He added that the AfDB’s sectors of focus, namely energy, agriculture, industrialization, regional integration and improving the quality of life of Africans are the core priorities of many African governments. “The role of the ALSF as an intermediary in discussions that facilitate critical missing ingredients needed for the successful conclusion of agreements that have an impact on development in Africa’s priority areas is critical,” he stressed.

In his presentation, Stephen Karangizi, the Director of the ALSF, explained that the ALSF was established on the demand of African states, therefore it is uniquely placed to support African governments negotiate the often complex terrain involved in legal negotiation processes. He added that a holistic approach that covers all aspect of negotiations, including policy and the appropriate legal framework that looks at the totality of the interaction of investment with difference sectors is important. He stressed that a sound legal framework in any country is essential because of the certainty it creates thus facilitating an enabling environment for business. 

Karangizi presented the macro-economic conditions facing African countries and the impact and results of the ALSF’s ongoing interventions. He also presented challenges faced by the ALSF when working with African governments as well as options aimed at improving the ALSF’s ability to better respond to the diverse demands of African governments.

During the consultation, delegates deliberated on possible areas of future engagement and key stakeholders that need to be engaged at various levels for higher impact and influence.

The delegates acknowledged that African governments face a wide array of challenges in the legal environment; therefore prioritization based on the needs of African governments is required.

Further, while noting that the ALSF’s strategic pillars – namely advisory services, litigation support, knowledge management, and capacity building – remain valid areas of focus, the delegates recognized the need for partnerships to strengthen synergies needed for the effective delivery of a holistic approach that covers complimentary aspects of services to African governments. 

In her closing remarks Hélène N’Garnim-Ganga, General Counsel at the AfDB, proposed the need for improved coordination to better respond to priorities of African governments.  

The ALSF is an international public institution, hosted by the African Development Bank Group. Its mandate is to support African states by providing legal advisory services for vulture fund litigation and negotiating complex commercial transactions.

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