Bennani & Associés moves into Central Africa with Kinshasa office launch

Opening of fifth office sees firm complete next stage of strategy to grow Francophone Africa network

African regional law firm Bennani &Associés has opened an office in the Democratic Republic of Congo, its fifth office across the continent’s Francophone countries.

The firm, which was founded in Casablanca 18 years ago, has hired Arnaud M Tshibangu from Belgian firm DALDEWOLF's Kinshasa office to open in the DRC's capital. He will be joined by two associates, secured from other firms.

Tshibangu, who was an attorney at his former firm, joins Bennani & Associés as its sixth equity partner. The corporate lawyer has experience advising foreign investors across sectors including  gas, mining, forestry, energy and infrastructure.

The office is the firm's first Central Africa base and marks the latest stage of its expansion across Francophone Africa. Alongside its Moroccan office, it operates from Algiers and Tunis in North Africa and branched out into West Africa three years ago when it set up shop in Abidjan.

Bennani & Associés co-founder Mehdi M. Bennani said the DRC was a "no brainer" as a base in Central African given "the trajectory of its economy, its political outlook and its natural resources".

He added: “When you look at Africa, there is a huge discrepancy in terms of law firm offerings between the south and east on one part and the north and west on the other part. In the south and east there are lots of law firms that have been around for a long time and have a quality and maturity you don’t have in the north and west. 

"Our strategy was to become the first player with a strong footprint across Francophone Africa with teams of lawyers on the ground who know the local markets but provide the quality of work, responsiveness, ethical standards and business pragmatic approach to clients’ problems solving that are comparable with any respectable international jurisdiction.”

Bennani & Associés has around 50 lawyers in total and works with a range of international law firms, including the UK Magic Circle firms Slaughter and May and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. Clients cited in the Legal 500 directory include Volkswagen Group, Adidas, Akzo Nobel, Carlyle and Etisalat. 

Bennani said he would expect the Kinshasa office to grown in due course, adding that a mature office in most Francophone African countries would have between 10 and 30 lawyers, depending on the size of the jurisdiction. He said the firm would also be looking for further opportunities to expand although it was "not in a hurry".

"The market knows that we are very strategic with our expansion," he said. "We study the markets carefully and we consult with our best friend law firms.”

In June last year, a quartet of African firms emulated Bennani & Associés' strategy by unveiling a four-way merger to create ADNA, with offices in Algeria, Morocco, Guinea and Ivory Coast.

In October, Bowmans signed a cooperation agreement with France's Gide Loyrette Nouel in a move intended to boost both firms' reach across Africa. Gide has North African offices in Algiers and Casablanca.

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