By: Carol Campbell
Tech start-up builds on continent’s instinct for good relationships to create networking, news and education platform for legal community
Africa’s most famous lawyer, Nelson Mandela, understood better than anyone the power of the youth when he said: “Young people are capable, when aroused, of bringing down the towers of oppression and raising the banners of freedom.”
International Youth Day on August 12 is a reminder of Mandela’s vision and, for law students and young lawyers, what he said is especially poignant. This is because the great man equipped himself, when he was young, with a law degree and went into practice with the single-minded goal of challenging and changing the apartheid state.
It is with Mandela’s words in mind that the Africa Legal team have been on a journey to build and support legal education, and the many systems it feeds.
Africa Legal is a tech-based platform created on the premise that networking, online training and industry-driven news will lead to a more united and interdependent legal community.
Founders Scott Cowan and Wendy Bampton were inspired to create the platform after recognizing the overwhelming effort of legal communities across the continent to ensure justice and good governance could thrive.
Cowan, who worked in legal and financial services, saw similarities in the struggles of lawyers in different countries and, with Bampton, conceptualised a platform where lawyers from Nigeria to Kenya to South Africa could learn about each other’s triumphs, share experiences and search out expertise.
“Central to all of this is involving law students and young lawyers who are the ones who will take Africa into a new kind of future,” Cowan says.
For Bampton, a tech entrepreneur, shining the light on success stories and profiling the individuals who are already changing the discourse, has been overwhelmingly rewarding.
“Africa Legal is telling the stories of the people who are making a real difference in the lives of others. What is so inspiring is that they are young, extremely well educated and innovative. This is a continent that is alive and growing and it’s the lawyers who are leading the way,” she says.
“Relationships are the core of every transaction in Africa and we are building on this to create a virtual network linking lawyers in Lagos, Accra, Kampala, Dar es Salaam, Nairobi, Johannesburg and Cape Town,” Cowan says.
Bampton and Cowan are constantly on the road visiting different parts of the continent to introduce the concept to law schools and practising lawyers.
To raise awareness of the platform and to show their commitment to legal education, Africa Legal is the main sponsor of the University of Cape Town Moot Court competition on August 4. This is where student lawyers showcase their powers of argument to their peers and professors but also recruiting firms.
In September the Africa Legal team will be in Johannesburg for Legal’s Week’s African Legal Awards which they are co-supporting. “Again, we wanted to show our commitment to excellence by investing in an event that recognises Pan African talent,” Bampton said.
Already this year the Africa Legal website www.africa-legal.com has featured a host of rising legal stars, including:
- Viola Llewellyn, the Cameroonian-British entrepreneur who has developed a new way of capitalizing small to medium African businesses through a fin-tech mobile phone concept that has brought Japanese and European investment into the heart of poor communities with huge success.
- Nelson Ashitiva, lead partner in an award-winning Kenyan law firm who established the business with a $150 loan from his mother, using a table in a restaurant called Bugger Dom to meet clients.
- Oxford University doctoral student in law, Onoriode Reginald Aziza, who is researching regional securities law in sub-Saharan Africa.
- Clarice Wambua, a Kenya-based expert in climate change law
- Kem Ihenacho, a partner at Latham and Watkins in London who, alongside Clement Fondufe, is head of the firm’s Africa practice.
- Catherine Kariuki, partner and head of telecommunications, media and technology at TripleOKLaw Advocates LLP in Nairobi, who is an expert in GDPR.
In an interview with Africa Legal, Dr Melba Kapesa Wasunna, director of the Extractives Baraza at the Strathmore University Law School, said it was recognised across the continent that training lawyers was critical to the future of good governance in every country. “Through everything, I strive to embed Africa in what I do and how I teach. I want our future lawyers to understand the context of the work they do and the responsibility that comes with it,” she says.
It is this ethos that Africa Legal is supporting and embracing.
“We are building a resource for students, institutions, individual lawyers, law firms and governments,” said Bampton, “This is the beginning of a massive database of African legal expertise and a network that will soon be unmatched.”
“The time has come for Africa’s legal community to work together and by doing this create channels for major investment,” says Cowan. “This is what Africa Legal is all about – taking what is so wonderful in Africa – the humanness of good relationships, applying the energy of youth with tech and creating a resource where everyone benefits.”
For more information, or to arrnage an interview contact Noni Sophe of Conversations Squared at 021 556 4777 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
To access Africa Legal please visit www.africa-legal.com