Legal-tech the key to unlocking Africa’s opportunities

The World Bank’s Doing Business 2019 names sub-Saharan Africa as the leader when it comes to the number of reforms to improve doing business. These improvements have seen the average time to register a business dropping from 59 days in 2006 to 23 days today, with a corresponding decrease in costs and red tape.

Despite this, starting or expanding a business in an African territory continues to be a daunting exercise for many. Usually it requires hiring a local lawyer to assist, which comes at a cost – not only financially, but also time-wise, especially for those wishing to take advantage of first-mover opportunities. This is nowhere more apparent than in the time it can take to get a local legal opinion. While some attribute this to “African time”, this is too simplistic. Rather, what many may not be aware of is that in most African countries, there are very few lawyers serving large populations, with one lawyer serving thousands – and in some cases tens of thousands – of locals, as well as international clients.

Throw other common challenges into the mix, such as different time zones and language barriers, and you have a recipe for frustration, which is multiplied for those who need information on more than one country. Delays in getting information also increase the risk of relying on outdated laws and regulations, especially with the current pace of reforms.

Legal-tech company Afriwise has developed an innovative online platform as a solution to this problem. The subscription-based platform provides up-to-date information about doing business in African countries and is available 24/7. It provides the fundamentals about doing business in African jurisdictions through a Q&A format, with answers provided by local legal experts and divided into key business categories for those wishing to set up or expand shop in an African country, such as business structures, employment, and commercial contracts.

For those who need specific tailored advice or in-depth answers to more complex questions, Afriwise also boasts the most comprehensive database of legal experts on the continent, listed per country and area of expertise, and who can be briefed directly via the platform. For complete peace of mind, they are vetted on a daily basis on sanctions, corruption and political exposure.

The platform is the brainchild of internationally recognised lawyer Steven De Backer , who has worked in Africa for almost 20 years.

“We have first-hand experience of how difficult it is to find trustworthy information on local laws, regulations and practices. Our main goal is to help businesses work smarter and more effectively in Africa. Through the combination of technology, critical legal know-how and access to local experts, we believe that the Afriwise platform will transform the way business is done in Africa,” said De Backer.