27 Oct 2021

Elite South African firm Bowmans signs agreement with France’s Gide to extend Africa reach

Firms to work closely together to offer legal services across continent’s anglophone and francophone countries

Bowmans is based in Johannesburg Shutterstock

South African Big Five member Bowmans has signed a cooperation agreement with French heavyhitter Gide Loyrette Nouel (Gide), in a move intended to boost each firm’s reach across Africa.

Paris-based Gide has three North African offices in Algiers, Casablanca and Tunis and brings experience working in the west and the north of the continent, principally in francophone countries. Bowmans, meanwhile, brings its presence in southern and eastern Africa, mainly in English-speaking countries.

The two firms have a track record of collaborating and said in a joint statement said that they will work closely together to deepen their ties with current and potential clients and to share their knowledge of the African market.

“We have known the Bowmans team for more than a decade and share the same values and professional standards,” said Jean-François Levraud, managing partner of Gide. “We have a history of successful joint assignments and this next step in our co-operation will allow us to support our clients in their most complex pan-African transactions.”

The firms have worked together on joint mandates for French and African companies on cross-border matters including M&A, finance, infrastructure, hospitality, energy projects and in the emerging fields of fintech and e-commerce, with Gide saying they will continue to do so.

The French firm has seen steady growth in demand for its services fuelled by renewed economic growth, intra-Africa trade and direct foreign investment into the continent and believes the agreement with Bowmans ‘will enhance our businesses in a mutually complementary way.’

‘Bowmans is widely regarded as one of the strongest law firms in Africa,’ Gide said, ‘and although there are no financial ties between our firms, it was obvious for us to consider this unique agreement with our long-standing partner.’

The firms also said the arrangement is a chance for them to offer their lawyers ‘multiple opportunities’ to collaborate and increase their reach across Africa.

“This is a very exciting development,” said Richard Harney, Bowmans senior partner for Kenya. “The co-operation agreement strengthens our relationship with Gide and will help us to better serve our clients in West and North Africa, with particular emphasis on francophone countries.”

Bowmans, which has three offices in South Africa and one apiece in Kenya, Uganda, Mauritius, Tanzania and Zambia, announced at the end of last month it had elected leading M&A lawyer Ezra Davids as its new chairman and senior partner. He succeeded Robert Legh, who passed away unexpectedly in July.

Gide, meanwhile, promoted seven to partner in its latest round in July, bringing its total partner headcount to 117 across 11 offices worldwide, along with around 500 other lawyers. The firm lost a five-strong banking and finance team to Jones Day in Paris in May.

In other African legal news, Dentons announced earlier this month that it had completed a combination with leading independent Mozambican law firm Fernanda Lopes & Associados-Advogados, six months after it agreed to combine with Nigerian practice Adepetun Caxton-Martins Agbor & Segun in a move that made it only the second global law firm with a presence in Africa’s largest economy.

And last month Allen & Overy reaffirmed its faith in South Africa as a strategic base for wider work on the continent with the hire of a six-partner team from Linklaters ally Webber Wentzel to bolster its banking and finance offering in Johannesburg.

Baker McKenzie, meanwhile, announced in August it was implementing a ‘three-step plan’ to address management issues at its Johannesburg office that included a change in leadership and measures to make it easier for staff to raise confidential concerns about their treatment.

Top