Dentons adds 17th Africa office with Tunisia tie-up

Latest instalment of firm's pan-Africa expansion follows deals in Mozambique and Nigeria last year

Dentons has added to its Africa network with another tie-up, this time in Tunisia, as the global giant moves to realise its ambition to be a leading pan-African law firm. 

The combination with Tunis-based Zaanouni Law Firm (ZLF) gives Dentons a footprint in its 17th location in Africa across 12 countries and adds two partners and 10 lawyers to its regional network, which has more than 250 lawyers. The firm said it expects the combination to be completed in the coming months subject to regulatory requirements and approval by its partners. 

Dentons global CEO, Elliot Portnoy, described Tunisia as a priority market for the firm’s clients, adding that the combination with Zaanouni would allow the firm “to connect clients to leading talent in Tunisia and to more than 20,000 people around the globe.”

Established in 1970 by founding partner and litigation specialist Taoufik Zaanouni, ZLF is recognised in the local legal market for its capabilities across the real estate, shipping, tourism, manufacturing and aviation sectors, Dentons said. 

The firm’s managing partner, Mohamed Zaanouni, said his firm shared Dentons’ vision of “building the leading Pan-African law firm owned and controlled by Africans”. 

Zaanouni, who has overseen the firm as managing partner since 1996, is a member of the Tunisian Bar Association and regularly works on matters before Tunisia’s Supreme Court. He spent time at Walter Conston Alexander & Green prior to its merger with Alston & Bird in 1995 and later worked as a foreign associate at MFB Solicitors in London. 

Dentons announced its ambition to expand its Africa footprint in back 2019, when it unveiled a series of planned combinations with Fernanda Lopes & Associados-Advogados (FL&A) in Mozambique, LEAD Advogados in Angola, Sayarh & Menjra in Morocco, Kyagaba and Otatiina Advocates in Uganda, and Eric Silwamba Jalasi and Linyama Legal Practitioners in Zambia. 

The combinations with Sayarh & Menjra and Kyagaba and Otatiina went live in 2019 and the Angola and Zambia deals were completed in 2020 while the Mozambique deal with FL&A was delayed as a result of pandemic-related logistical issues until last October. 

Last April the firm also announced a tie-up with Nigerian firm Adepetun Caxton-Martins Agbor & Segun (ACAS-Law), which made it the second global law firm after DLA Piper to secure a presence in Africa’s largest economy. 

On the latest deal, Joe Andrew, Dentons’ global chairman, said: "Dentons has emerged from the pandemic stronger than it went into it and this combination will position us to help our clients who continue to be confronted with constant, accelerated change by bringing together the leading talent of Zaanouni and Dentons.”

Following the tie-up, Dentons Africa network will extend to Angola, Egypt, Kenya, Mauritius, Mozambique, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda and Zambia.

Other international law firms to bolster their presence in Africa recently include Allen & Overy, which last month added a pair of corporate and commercial partners from top local outfit Werksmans to add dealmaking capabilities in Johannesburg. 

The arrival of Brian Price and Ze’ev Blieden followed the firm’s hire of a six-partner team from Linklaters ally Webber Wentzel last September to bolster its banking and finance offering in Jo’burg.

And last October French heavy hitter Gide Loyrette Nouel signed a cooperation agreement with South African Big Five member Bowmans, in a move intended to extend each firm’s reach across the continent. Paris-based Gide has three North African offices in Algiers, Casablanca and Tunis and brought experience working in the west and the north of the continent, principally in francophone countries. Bowmans, meanwhile, brought its presence in southern and eastern Africa, mainly in English-speaking countries.

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