Leading global law firm Baker McKenzie recently hosted seminars in Abu Dhabi and Dubai in November 2018 focusing on the risks and rewards for companies doing business in the Middle East and Africa, and the future development of the African power sector.

The seminar was led by senior Baker McKenzie lawyers from the UAE, UK and Africa, together with Yellow Door Energy. Over 60 senior executives from multinational and regional companies across a range of industries, including consumer goods, energy, financial services, and technology, joined in the interactive discussions about:

  • the current economic overview of Africa, including opportunities and challenges, and the pace of development of legal/regulatory frameworks;
  • a spotlight on Kenya and Nigeria, including the latest developments/legal updates, commercial risks, and future prospects; and
  • the impact of technology on the development of energy and consequently cities in Africa, including comparison with the Middle East.

"The African continent presents an unparalleled wealth of opportunities across a range of industries, and the UAE is poised to play a vital role in the continent's development, given its undisputed position as a trade hub and its innovative "smart city" agenda", said Andrew Mackenzie, UAE Head of International Arbitration and Construction at Baker McKenzie Habib Al Mulla. "The African power sector is one of the key sectors that will benefit from the "smart city" concept, which is simply about using technology to create innovative solutions for public benefit or consumption".

Kieran Whyte, a Baker McKenzie Energy, Mining & Infrastructure partner, based in Johannesburg, commented, "Digital technology is revolutionising the way power is generated and consumed. This smart power revolution has the potential to address Africa's energy deficit, with new and innovative ways of providing sustainable and cost-effective power off the grid".

"The rewards of doing business in Africa is clear, but the risks have traditionally posed a challenge, particularly the regulatory and geopolitical risks", added Marc Fèvre, a Baker McKenzie Energy, Mining & Infrastructure partner, based in London. "Businesses need to anticipate these overlapping risks and understand the local requirements in carrying out investments and projects particularly in the less mature African markets".

The seminar panellists comprised Baker McKenzie Africa and power-focused partners Andrew Mackenzie (UAE), Marc Fèvre (UK) and Kieran Whyte (Africa), IT & Communications counsel Kellie Blyth (UAE), and the Chief Executive Officer of Yellow Door Energy, Jeremy Crane.

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