At Harris Bricken, we keep close tabs on what is happening around the world, and we know that our friends and clients do, as well. We are happy to provide this podcast series: Global Law and Business, hosted by international attorneys Fred Rocafort and Jonathan Bench, where we look at the world by talking with business leaders, innovators, service providers, manufacturers, and government leaders around the globe.

In Episode #90, we are joined by Karim Anjarwalla, Managing Partner at Anjarwalla & Khanna. We discuss:

  • Karim’s work as an international business lawyer in Kenya, where he was recently recognized as the Kenyan Lawyer of the Year
  • One transaction that was significant enough to move the Kenyan currency against the USD
  • Kenya as the most open sub-Saharan economy to foreign investors
  • The activities of private equity funds like Helios, African Best, DPI, and many others that are focused solely on African investments
  • The attractiveness of Nairobi vs. Johannesburg
  • The African Growth and Opportunities Act
  • The Africa Continental Free Trade Area
  • Nairobi, Lagos, Cairo, and Johannesburg as hubs for fintech and agritech
  • How the new generation of successful African entrepreneurs approach their wealth and social responsibility to solve deep-seated social problems in Africa
  • How African lawyers are perceived by their clients as trusted advisors beyond legal skills
  • The vast difference in the regulatory experience of civil servants
  • How investors and businesses should not make the mistake of treating Africa as one market
  • Listening, and watching recommendations from:

We’ll see you next week for another exciting and informative episode when we sit down with Gregor McQueen, Founder and CEO of McQueen Associates!

This podcast audio has been transcribed by an automatic transcriber.

Fred Rocafort  00:07 

Global law and global business go hand in hand, but never seem to keep pace with each other. The importance on the global stage of developing and developed nations waxes and wanes, while consumption and interconnectedness steadily increase all the while laws and regulations change incessantly requiring businesses to stay nimble. But how do we make sense of it all? Welcome to Global Law and Business hosted by Harris Bricken International Business attorneys. I’m Fred Rocafort. 


Jonathan Bench  00:37 

And I’m Jonathan Bench. Every week, we take a targeted look at legal and economic developments in locales around the world as we try to decipher global trends in law and business with the help of international experts. We cover continents, countries, regimes, governance, finance, legal developments, and whatever is trending on Twitter. We covered the important the seemingly unimportant, the relatively simple and the complex. 


Fred Rocafort  01:02 

We hope you enjoyed today’s podcast. please connect with us on social media to comment and suggest future topics and guests. 


Jonathan Bench  01:22 

Today we’re joined by Karim Anjarwalla, the managing partner of ALN Kenya Anjarwalla & Khanna, which is generally considered the leading corporate law firm in Kenya and is the largest full service corporate law firm in East Africa, Karim is considered one of the country’s leading corporate M&A practitioners, and is also recognized for his Africa wide cross border work. Karim, welcome to Harris Bricken, Global Law and Business. 


Karim Anjarwalla  01:45 

Thank you very much indeed. Jonathan. Nice to be here. 


Jonathan Bench  01:48 

The first question wasn’t in our list of questions we sent you, but I want to hear the answer. What have you been doing lately? Tell us a little bit about your upbringing as well and how you ended up in this line of work. We’d really like to get to know the person behind the impressive corporate lawyer. 


Karim Anjarwalla  02:03 

Gosh, well, thank you. I am Kenyan of South Asian descent. My family moved to Kenya about 125 years ago. From India, on my father’s side and from Pakistan on my mother’s side. My father was also a lawyer. I was brought up in Mombasa, which is a coastal city. As you know, Kenya is you know, a former colony. And so we have close links to the United Kingdom. I studied, I studied there and went to law school and university in the UK. I worked in London for a few years, and then returned to Kenya in the early 90s. I am married and have two boys, who are way much older than I hoped it would be. It was so much nicer when they were younger. One’s 22, just graduated. And the second is 19. My wife and I met at university and she’s a molecular biologist and comes from Mauritius, which is a beautiful Indian Ocean Island, not so far from here. 


Fred Rocafort  03:10 

Thank you. Thank you for that, Karim. I find the history of your part of the world to be to be fascinating. And one of the aspects that that makes it interesting is the fact that there is this large South Asian presence in countries like like Kenya, turning to your work, you’ve you’ve been involved in some very prominent m&a transactions. And while Jonathan is experienced in that field, this is not something that I do as part of my work, or only get involved very tangentially. So this is also of considerable interest to me. So one threshold question when looking at the different transactions you’ve handled and looking at their different scales. What do they have in common? And in which ways? Are they different? So I’d like to hear a little bit more about that. 


Karim Anjarwalla  04:04 

Thank you. It’s a bit I suppose like, football. I know you’re an ardent supporter of Barcelona, football is football. Indeed, it’s not the same in Real Madrid is playing Barcelona, you know? That’s a whole different ballgame. So look, I think, I think with M&A, you know, the thing I say is that a macro is never small to the client involved. Right? So that’s the way I approach all our transactions, if you if you do take it on, and it’s important to the client, no matter how large or small relative to the rest of the things that one does as a lawyer, and in many ways, actually, smaller transactions can get more complex, oftentimes, because the parties involved are less experienced in M&A, and therefore certain points which one might take for granted in more complex larger scale M&A with experienced experienced practitioners are new to the participants in smaller M&A. So, it can actually get more difficult sometimes, than, than larger transactions. But having said that, obviously, the there are unique elements when you know when the size of the deal relative the market during becomes, you know, when it’s off scale. So I mean, I’ll give you an example a few years ago, this was when Kenya was much smaller economic unit is now I worked on a landmark private equity deal for an investment into a bank here. And when the deal was announced the bank the bank was publicly listed. So we had to make public disclosures, in fact, moved our currency against the US dollar, because of the expectation of a large inflow of dollars into the country. I stress this was many years ago when the economy was smaller, but it was actually an unanticipated outcome of the transaction. And the transaction advisors were taken by surprise at the fact that the exchange rate moved as a consequence, often larger transactions occur in regulated industries, whether that’s to say for example, telecommunications, banking, insurance, and that sort of gives rise to peculiar sort of specificities linked to kind of regulatory approvals. the dot com regulators, for example, are very concerned as other banking regulators about beneficial ownership of opera use of these regulated entities. So you can expect a lot of questions about about that. You won’t be surprised to know that the antitrust implications change dramatically when the transactions get larger, especially if there’s a consolidation, either vertically or horizontally between between the participants in the transaction. And finally, a couple points around tax. In many African jurisdictions, we have something called stamp duty, and stamp duty sometimes linked directly to the value of the corporate transaction. So you can expect to pay more stamp duty if a transaction is larger, but also capital gains tax. You know, obviously, they may be more capital gains tax if the transaction is larger, but also, the tax authorities are more likely to be curious about the transaction. If it has a particularly high profile, or scale. 


Fred Rocafort  07:37 

I just want to follow up with a quick question. As you may know, both Jonathan and I have spent considerable time in in China, and we always somehow find a way to to bring the conversation back to China, but but one of the factors that is always very present when doing business in China are the different restrictions that the government places on foreign investments. So you did allude to regulatory approvals, but I’m curious, in a place like like Kenya, are there sectors that are completely out of bounds for foreign investors and in the in the way that that happens in China, for example? Or is the economy more or less open and in general terms, provided, of course, that that there might be specific regulatory approvals that have to be obtained in some particular sectors? 


Karim Anjarwalla  08:30 

Thanks for a great question. So look, let me first deal with Kenya. Kenya is probably the most open Sub Saharan African economy in terms of foreign ownership of control and in terms of capital flows. So we have no exchange controls and very limited local ownership requirements. There are specific sectors, for example, insurance, but insurance to insurance brokerage, where there are in the case of insurance at least 1/3 of an insurer must be owned by Kenyans, for a brokerage, at least 60% of must be owned by Kenyans. As a matter of policy rather than law, the regulator’s in cut the regulator in the telecoms industries, encouraging foreign ownership up to 1/3 in our telecommunications sector, although they are grandfathering across those telecom entities we’re not foreign on so we’re not requiring them to divest. We have some requirements in relation to procurement from particularly for smaller scale contracts from locally controlled businesses. And there is in general a limitation around the foreign ownership of agricultural land. Although there are legal and structural solutions to that, under what’s called a land Control Act, I think like many parts of the world, you are beginning to see the creeping in via antitrust policy of a kind of public interest argument. It hasn’t been much used in Kenya. But I imagine that it may well be used. If, for example, major infrastructure assets were were involved. But in general terms, beginning economies in other than the sort of sectors, I mentioned that perhaps one or two other very small sectors is fully open to foreign ownership and control, directorship, and so on. Of course, the position in many parts of Africa is radically different, right? We’re a continent with 54 countries, you know, different legal systems and backgrounds. And so you only need to go to a northern border and go to Ethiopia, when you get a very, very different picture. And the picture there is perhaps similar to China, where certain parts of the economy are simply closed to foreign ownership. Banking insurance, for example, are closed for ship completely. But the new government in Ethiopia is now beginning to open up those sectors. So, for example, they have began to progress through realization process in relation to telecommunications. So in summary, the position varies considerably from country to country. But Kenya itself is very open. 


Jonathan Bench  11:44 

Let’s talk for a minute about international transactions. Fred and I do a lot of inbound and outbound international work. And we have clients all over the world, actually worked on a deal probably a little bit over a year ago that involved a Kenyan family that had invested in a US Coffee Company. I helped with some of their investment related documents. That was really my first foray into working with Kenya specifically, can you tell us a little bit about some of your cross border transactions are what you’re seeing in the marketplace? Who’s coming to Kenya? What are they looking for in terms of opportunities? And what are some of Kenya’s interesting markets that have attracted international investment? Sure. 


Karim Anjarwalla  12:18 

So I think the first point to note is that a large driver of acquisition activity and M&A activity in Kenya is private equity. We have a number of Africa, specific private equity funds, the likes of healios, African best dpi, and many others who are focused solely on Africa, many of global funds, like activists who have Africa allocations, and they are extremely active in acquisitions, both taking minority and majority stakes. And a great deal of activity, as I say, is driven sort of by them. What you’ve also seen is the entry of strategics. Now, if you think about Kenya, sort of, geographically, it’s obviously on the Horn of Africa, along the coast, the great deepwater port English as a, you know, pretty much a first language and three hours plus GMT, so very well positioned to and it’s kind of, at the center of the continent to be greater runs through Kenya. So it’s geographically well placed, and is a hub. Because it has, you know, capital city, Nairobi is, you know, modern. We have a great airport. You know, huge number of airlines come through here. And we have all the kind of paraphernalia, schools, hospitals, and so on and so forth that make it a good place to live. So it’s become a hub and a services center for the region. So many global multinationals when they’re thinking about an entry strategy, will will think about Johannesburg or Nairobi as an entry strategy for Africa. And we are driver M&A, through Kenya and South Africa and then at bolt on other countries. So by way of example, GE has set up here Abbott Laboratories do some us names have set up here, recently. The other big thing to be aware of, and I just mentioned, the US angle here is AGOA, the African Growth and Opportunities Act which of which Kenya benefits from particularly the textile sector. So that’s driven a lot of investment into into textiles. In terms of in terms of sort of industry sectors. You know, there’s there’s a big trend sort of targeting The growing middle class in Africa, so anything which touches them directly, so fast moving consumer goods, financial services, health care, transport logistics, all of those are are examples of sort of activity that, that foreign investors are increasingly focused on in Kenya. 


Jonathan Bench  15:22 

That’s fascinating to hear about. This is one of the things I love most about our podcast is hearing your point of view and what’s going on in your marketplace. And then I start thinking about all kinds of clients that I should be sending our way, or at least others that I can introduce to you because of their interest. I think that Fred’s ears probably perked up when you talked about the textiles industry, because we do a lot of work with China related clients that want to diversify away from China, a lot of them have realized that leaving China Wholesale is probably not realistic, but they’re very interested in not having all of their eggs in the China basket. So the idea that we can learn more now about prominent industries in Kenya and other countries in East Africa, and start to develop a more holistic global supply chain for our clients are helping them to be a part of it, in some ways, perfect. That’s really what corporate attorneys do, right? Our clients expect us to know everything about their business and everyone else’s business, and sometimes help put the pieces together and not just be the ones papering their transaction. 


Karim Anjarwalla  16:13 

I think that’s, that’s a great point. And I should just also add, I should perhaps mention this earlier, you know, we’ve we’ve signed was now called the AfCFTA, the African Free Trade, continental free trade area, right, which is a, you know, massive undertaking, creating, effectively, a single trade zone, across all the many countries in Africa, I forget how many now, but I think, well, past 30, including Kenya have signed up to the AfCFTA. And it’s now binding, which in principle allows for the duty free movement of goods and services across these markets. So a lot of your clients will be thinking about, well, we know where should we set up for us to now seamlessly export across multiple markets, on the continent. And that increasingly, Jonathan is a question we are asked, you know, kind of, from a trade perspective, how do we best take advantage of the AfCFTA? 


Fred Rocafort  17:16 

As you talk, I started thinking about the prospect, right of a large free trade zone or a free trade zone as large potentially as all of Africa. I mean, that that is quite an exciting prospect. And it’s a good segue to my next question, because I wanted to ask you about the startup environment in in Kenya, and the region more more generally, could you tell us about the startup environment? 


Karim Anjarwalla  17:44 

You’re right to raise this because it’s probably the most exciting development in the last 24 months, in terms of the kind of the sort of nature in which economic activity is changing in our part of the world? So a little bit of context first, right. So I think that Africa, obviously has a history of underinvestment in a whole bunch of systems, you know, talk about, for example, simply digital infrastructure for the payment of money, right, which is super well developed in in many parts of the world, but not in a not in many parts of Africa, sort of credit card chip cards, and so we have them, but it not as widespread as you might encounter in many other places. Now, that seemed like a downside, it was for many years. But of course, we also know that incumbency and legacy systems are a huge drag to change. So the advantage you mentioned, you know that the example you mentioned, right of M-PESA, is a good example of leapfrogging and wave essentially, one says, Well, look, we don’t have these legacy systems, but how can we achieve the same outcome in a more efficient way, and help the mass of the population move funds seamlessly between, you know, buyer and seller, you know, mother and son, at university, whatever, right? And M-PESA just allows that seamless flow of money and I forget the data, but it’s something crazy, like 70% of our GDP moves through M-PESA. You know, in terms of value in value terms, it’s something quite phenomenal. But the story is much is much bigger now than M-PESA. And so you’ve got a rise of Fintechs, agri tech, health tech, logistics tech, right across the continent, but there are four, I would say four key hubs. Probably an arguably in this order, Nairobi, Lagos, Cairo, and Johannesburg. In 2020, there was $1.4 billion approximately invested in the VC space in Africa. And just under half of that was split between Nairobi and Lagos, Kenya, and Nigeria equally. That was 20 by 29%, down from 2019. But the estimates are that in 2021, just under 3 billion will be invested in the same sector. There have been some notable successes. So for example, pay stack, a payment startup in Nigeria was acquired by stripe, for a few 100 million. And chipper cash was valued at a few 100 million. And these are now all sort of billion dollar plus companies. I think quite soon, a company called Servo will be listed on the NASDAQ through a dispatches action, it is a kind of it is Uber rides, buses, and is a mass transit solution provider for emerging a sort of large emerging cities started out in Cairo, but then moved to Nairobi and Pakistan and so on. So there are a number of examples of great Fintechs. And I think that if we would have this conversation five years from now, the entire banking and insurance space, would it be up ended by FinTech innovation. Very recently, just by way of further example, a company called fingo, which is a neobank. That did extremely well in Y Combinator and got commitments about eight times where they were looking to raise. And this was, this is only a, you know, a few a few weeks ago. And it’s a real kind of bootstrap story. Three young men, I think, all under 24 schoolfriends, who coded and put together this, the software that runs Fingal, which allows banks to run a retail strategy via neobank. So lots and lots of examples in this space for and I could go on for another hour on FinTech in Africa, because it’s so exciting. But yeah, I hope that gives you a flavor of what’s happening. 


Fred Rocafort  22:35 

For sure, and you have just given me an idea for a future episode. Right. I agree with you completely. I think this is a topic that lends itself to to lengthier conversations, really the as at least at least from my perspective, as an outsider, how the the economy of the continent is just being redrawn along along these different lines. So certainly something to the track. One follow up thinking about investment in Africa, when you compare the strategies and the objectives of local African investors as opposed to those who might be coming in for from overseas, and what in what ways do their outlooks diverge? I mean, do you see a willingness to to do certain things on the part of, of local investors that might might not be there in the case of, of outside investors who might be perhaps a little bit more conservative about their investment strategies in in the region? Is this something you see? Or is there really not that much of a difference in terms of, of the investors depending on their origin? 


Karim Anjarwalla  23:46 

Yeah, it’s a great question in Africa, a vast continent. And you are seeing the emergence of African acquirers particularly from South Africa. They’ve been at it for a while. But now Nigeria, Morocco, and Kenya, right, I would say those are the four economies that are producing companies that are making Africa wide acquisitions, particularly in banking, insurance and financial services. And I would say that when each of those acquirers is playing in what I would call, kind of home directory, so when Kenyan companies within East Africa and Moroccan companies within North or West Africa and so on, they probably have a more nuanced understanding of risk when compared to a investor from elsewhere because of their familiar familiarity With the neighboring markets, and the very close trade links and cultural links. However, I’m not sure that if a Kenyan company makes an investment in Nigeria, it approaches it any differently than, say, a US company making investment in Nigeria. And fundamentally, I, you know, the factory those differences are, as you know, that as similar as far apart as each other. So I think that, I think that one can probably overestimate, if I can call it kind of home ground advantage if you’re an African acquire, unless you’re playing very close to your, your own core market. Having said that, you know, obviously, US acquirers have, you know, domestic legislation like the FCPA to worry about. And if you’re a UK company, the UK Bribery Act, when it comes to matters of corruption. And once again, that those aren’t, those aren’t cannot be issues in some parts of some parts of Africa. And that’s a real legislation isn’t uniform across the world. So some companies, depending on the origin, need to think about those issues even more closely, kind of than others. I think that the differences are around perception to risk, principally, and around cultural issues. But those differences are reduced, the further away an African acquire goes from his home market. 


Jonathan Bench  26:54 

That’s a very interesting way to think about it. Of course, like you said, 54 countries, if you’re in your home market, or near your home market, you hear things you see things and you know, people, but if you travel a few 1000 kilometers away from your home base, your network thins out. I’ll follow up on a question. Fred asked, what is happening internally as these new African entrepreneurs rise? What kind of people? Are they? How are they changing the market? How are they changing the overall culture of let’s say, East Africa, you can talk in general terms, but I have to assume that you know, some of these entrepreneurs, I’m thinking particularly that a lot of startups hold the promise of having your own rags to riches story. And you’re talking about these FinTech entrepreneurs who are in their 20s. I assume many of them don’t come from a wealthy background. And so when they get a large investment, suddenly they’re millionaires or billionaires, are they they’re spending lavishly? Are they doing good things? How do they start to exert their muscle in their communities? What kind of trajectories? Have you seen for some of these entrepreneurs? I’m sure some of this is in the news that you just pick up by being on the ground? 


Karim Anjarwalla  27:53 

That’s a good question. I think it varies. So I guess, you know, your first class of newly minted millionaires, billionaires, you know, whatever, right. Very wealthy people, probably began in South Africa. And, you know, there are interesting urban myths around sort of, you know, flashing cash and, you know, wild bodies and so on. But I think that, you know, I think a lot of this also depends on the atmosphere, right? Like, in which you have to Silicon Valley has been around for a while, right. And there is a kind of, I guess, a normal behavior and a way of doing things and a expectation and so on. And so, when you have a newly minted newly minted billionaire from Silicon Valley, there’s almost a playbook. Right? That one expects from them. Right. And there are, of course, variations to that theme and variations from the mean. But you know, there is a, there is a playbook. It’s very new here, you know, so there isn’t, there isn’t a playbook. And I can’t just, you know, roll off my tongue, a whole list of people who were newly minted, you know, in that sense. I think, though, that that the interesting thing for me is that a lot of the fintechs I’m thinking for example, also of swivel, which is a sort of transport tech, the one I mentioned that listing on the NASDAQ shortly, you know, Foundry is a 28 year old gentleman. And, you know, he’s just obsessed by fixing what he sees as a real, very big problem, right, which is kind of inhumane and particularly if you’re female, kind of dehumanizing experience of public transport in many emerging markets. So a lot of a lot of the innovations in our part of the world are linked to really deep social problems getting put in a bad way. If I contrast that, say, with an Amazon, which, you know, might make life much more efficient, but I think all of us can remember, the life was pretty cool pre-Amazon, right? I mean, sure, we now get their deliveries more efficiently, and so on and so forth. But it wasn’t kind of fixing a social problem, right? With a London startups in, you know, part of the world, they’re fixing a social problem. So I think our entrepreneurs, I get the sense, at least, at least at this stage, entrepreneurs are quite driven by that idea of kind of social change. And not so driven by not so driven by the idea of being a billionaire or a multi millionaire much more by creating the change now, you know, once they become a millionaire billionaire, well, they’re all, you know, radically alter. You know, I’m just not sure, right. It’s studying human behavior. But I think, I think the fact that they are fixing deep seated social issues, means that they remain invested in their societies and in fixing problems in their societies dealing with issues of poverty, trying to move people from the, you know, to the middle class, and so on. I’m not sure I’ve answered your question, but I hope I’ve given you at least kind of a trajectory of how I see things. 


Jonathan Bench  31:49 

That’s really all I want is just your insight, because of course, we’re all going to have different experiences. I know you’re not a reporter on the startup industry. So I don’t expect you to have a list of all the entrepreneurs and newly minted millionaires in the last six months. But your insights are absolutely fascinating. And have me thinking about what drives us. I like to think I’m pretty altruistic. And the idea that these entrepreneurs are really addressing social problems. First is excellent. I’m sure they have no problem with making money as well. Fred, and I read international news, voraciously. Fred raised probably twice as much as I do. But I still love reading international news. And so I think we probably have a pulse on the things that are going on around the world more than a typical American, and probably more than a typical American lawyer. And that’s why we do what we do, because we love the international space. I haven’t been to the continent yet. But it’s very high on my list, partly because I’ve got friends, some of them, who I’ve gained through the podcast, and some through connections in the US. Let’s pretend now I’m your associate attorney. I’m a newly minted US or UK attorney. I don’t know a lot about the continent. But I’m very interested in doing work there. What are some of the initial conversations you would have, with a newly minted attorney, or even a more mainstream career attorney about doing deals in Africa? How are the deals put together? I know you’ve had some training in the UK. So feel free to use whatever parallels make sense in your mind, and focus on East Africa or any particular locale that you want to talk about. 


Karim Anjarwalla  33:07 

I think the big difference between lawyering in this part of the world, and in markets that are much more deeply Lloyd, if I can call it that way, is that clients really do think of you or want to think of you as their trusted adviser, and not just their lawyer, but their trusted adviser. And so they’re looking for your judgment, beyond just kind of the legal and technical issues. But in relation to the transaction, or the joint venture or the partnership, that above to embark on? So the scope of what they want from you, is much broader. Now I find that, you know, I find that exhilarating, because it gives me an opportunity to shape my clients strategy. It gives me the opportunity to bring what I know of kind of socio economic and geopolitical issues into my lawyering. Right. What I know of how the regulatory space may be changing what I know of potential government policy, and so on and so forth into my lorring. So I think the first and most fundamental change would be, I think the expectation is that you have a you have a, you’re more than just a lawyer, right? You’re much more than just a lawyer. And of course, many of our transactions do have transaction advisors on them, but you’re much less boxed in and then you would, that is my impression with, you know, say work in, in in London, for example. So I think that’s probably the biggest difference. No the other the other things, you know, a couple of other points, I would sort of note is that, you know, our regulators in some of them aren’t very sophisticated. But some of them have less less experience than you might in a foreign market be accustomed to. So you need to obviously, maintain very respectful relationships with your regulators. But also be patient, and be prepared to spend the time and invest in explanations, even for things which you might from the market, which you’re coming from, find fairly obvious. It’s so in certain markets, in certain countries, there is a lack of regulatory capacity. And, you know, getting frustrated about it isn’t helpful, right, you’ve just got to have a method of engaging in a various kind of studious, and resilient weights, I think that’s probably a, you know, a second sort of major difference. You know, the third point that stands out, or take your example of a mid career lawyer who’s joining and working on sort of Africa deals, you know, the fact that each market in Africa can be very, very different. So it’s very dangerous to say, hey, you know, we did this in Nigeria, so it’s unlikely to work in Kenya, I see that it’s, you know, it sounds like a very obvious point. But I see that mistake being made far too often. And just remembering that, you know, just like countries in South America who may neighbor each other are very different. The same is true in Africa. 


Jonathan Bench  37:04 

I wanted to make one comment before we jump in, sorry. So your comment on the civil service and how some of those regulators are less experienced reminds me of Martin Meredith’s book, The fate of Africa that I’ve been working my way through, thanks to a recommendation from one of our earlier podcast guests, a friend of mine who’s in Kampala, Uganda, it has been interesting from historical perspective, and now your cultural perspective to understand and see the power vacuum that was left, when many of the colonial powers pull down, some of them almost overnight. For many African nations, this is recent history, only the last 40 to 70 years, that may seem like a lot for those of us who only live 70 or 80 years in our lifetime. But in terms of building up a civil service, and growing institutional knowledge, a lot of them don’t have hundreds of years of experience to rely on, they have decades or years. And so it’s very interesting to hear that like with any industry, some will learn fast, and others really, really great insight. Thank you. 


Fred Rocafort  37:53 

But that’s a great point. And I think we see issues like that, and in other parts of the world, and we also do a lot of work in the in the cannabis space. And the scenario we sometimes face is exactly as you described, that there are things that would be obvious to someone operating in the United States, you know, regarding the products that are produced in the in the industry, but a very similar situation to what you’re describing. There is sometimes this conception of the continent as as one entity, and then you know, things worked in this country. So surely they will work in the country next door, but as you pointed out, you know, you were, you had a great example showing how even neighboring countries like Kenya and Ethiopia can have fastly different regimes in terms of foreign investment, right. And this is this is true, also in Latin America. So it’s a, these are regions with great promise. And some of the statistics are our, you know, mouthwatering, but there’s also that reality of many borders and and differences between countries. As we start to wrap up, for those professionals who are attracted by by this effervescence that we are seeing in Africa, what do you see as the entry points for someone who is thinking of checking out what’s happening in Africa and maybe saying, Look, well, I’ll take a year to go give it a try and see what opportunities I might find. Do you have some thoughts on what might be a good place for them to to make their destination? 


Karim Anjarwalla  39:33 

Gosh, there are so many great places. You know, I think that the first point you make there is the most important one, which is come and see right? Because part of the problem is there are misconceptions, prejudices built up over time, which can quickly be put to rest. If one does spend time, physically, in a country or you know, on the continent in the country in a city, and you get a much better understanding of how things really work, and what the nature of risk and reward is, there are now, you know, any number of sort of societies, communities, events, in relation glugs, in relation to Africa, that provide a really nuanced understanding of what’s happening on the continent. And, you know, it’s obviously very difficult to generalize right across 54 countries, four main language groups, probably like several hundred sub languages, and so on. So it is very difficult generalize, but there are some sort of macro themes that cross cut many parts of the continent. You know, the rise of large urban cities, right, there are, I think, more than 50 cities in Africa with a population of more than a million, right. Two thirds of the world’s arable land is in Africa, right. Just by way of sort of two, two examples. We have by far the youngest population, on on the planet, and the population most hungry for education. So, you know, macro trends, spring speak very much in favor of many parts of Africa continuing to grow and continuing to create better and better opportunities for its people. So the key I think, is to is to is to, you know, I always say that, and I’m sure you found this in relation to Southeast Asia, it was never as good as people hyped it up to be, and never as bad when it crashed. As people said, it was right. Those of us have been in Africa for a while, no, knew when it was all hype that yeah, there was lots going on, but not nearly as much as the hype suggested. And even after the economic downturn and COVID we know things aren’t as bad as some of the hype might suggest. So yeah, it’s a difficult question, but I don’t know but that gives you a sense and maybe sort of just I think your answers or geographical question to almost be unfair for me to sort of to mention right but obviously, a lot of it depends on language strength. So you know, if you were if you were afraid French speaking then you know, not many better places in Casablanca, Abidjan, Dhaka okay in Senegal, amazing places, right? If you speak Portuguese, then you no wonder or Maputo, in Mozambique, and of course in the English speaking world. I obviously have to put Nairobi first and biased. But you know, what a great city operates becoming Lusaka, in Zambia, right. Lagos if you’ve got tons of energy, and you know, you know, it’s probably the most effervescent city on the continent. And then, of course, you’ve got all of the Arabic speaking world, Egypt, Morocco, etc. Some of them also French. 


Jonathan Bench  44:02 

Karim, it’s been absolutely a blast to have you on the podcast with us today. I know when I explain our podcast to people and tell them we’re normally just lawyers sitting around talking about the business environment around the world. Somebody rolled their eyes like that. But for me, I look forward to every episode. And certainly appreciate the time that you spent with us today on the podcast, you’ve given us excellent insights. And we certainly enjoyed getting to know you. And we’ll be following more and more of your work and look forward to meeting in person at some point as well. We always like to close the podcast with recommendations of something perhaps that you’ve read recently. It could be a book or a newspaper article or blog, or something you’ve listened to maybe another podcast. We’ve had good geographical recommendations as well. So if you say come to Nairobi, and why we’d love that. So anything like that is completely on the table. What recommendations do you have for our listeners today? 


Karim Anjarwalla  44:48 

Gosh, well, you know, Tanzania just won the Nobel Prize for Literature, announced a couple of weeks ago, many of us who read Abdul Razak Gurna’s books. He was in Zanzibar knew he was overview. So I’d have to recommend anything by Abdul Razak Gurna. Fantastic, fantastic writer of fiction. If you want to read, I think amongst the best journalism about the continent, or at least about Eastern and Southern Africa, go to the It’s deeply thoughtful pieces. Just have time on your hands. They’re not short, but super interesting. And if you want to join me with a guide, surf, come to go for Bofa Beach in Kilifi, 70 kilometres north of Mombasa. And I’ll see you there. 


Jonathan Bench  46:01 

Excellent recommendations. Thank you very much, Fred, what do you have for us? 


Fred Rocafort  46:05 

I can’t kick the China habit ever. I thought this was a good piece that you know, even even for someone who doesn’t read that much about China, I think this one would be a useful one. And it’s titled The Triumph and Terror of Wang Huning. This was published in Palladium, October 11. Written by an N.S. Lyons. I’ll try to come up with something non China next time. But that’s mine. Thank you, Karim for yours, definitely a lot there that I want to dig into. Jonathan, what do you have for us? 


Jonathan Bench  46:40 

I’m going a little lighter as well. In contrast to yours, my wife and I love BBC shows that end up on Amazon Prime. And so of course, we worked our way through Downton Abbey and we were sad when it was over. We found a new show called Grantchester, which is Downton Abbey esque. It’s set in 1950s England and it’s a crime mystery about a partnership between a clergyman and a police detective. It has enough of the Downton flair, including the music, which reminds me of Downton every time I hear it. So it is a lot of fun if you’re just looking for a nice British throwback show. I think there are five seasons now on Amazon Prime. So I guess if you can find it there anywhere else in the world, BBC affiliate, you’ll probably find it as well. With that Karim, we want to thank you for being with us. We really enjoyed it. We hope we can speak with you again and meet up in person when we can make that happen. 


Karim Anjarwalla  47:25 

Thank you so much guys. 


Jonathan Bench  47:30 

Global Law and Business is a production of Harris Bricken. The team includes Madeline Williams and Michaela Moore. The music is composed by Steven Schmidt. If you like the show, subscribe on iTunes and leave us a review there. We’d like to hear what you think of the show and it helps new listeners find us. Tune in next week for another episode. We’ll see you then.