Insights on Doing Business in Africa

TORONTO — In today’s session on doing business in Africa, panelists discussed key considerations for seizing opportunities and mitigating risks on the continent.

Panelists included Baker & McKenzie partners Reagan Demas and Greg McNab, as well as David Chmiel, managing director of Global Torchlight, a political and security risk consultancy.

They discussed the challenges and significant variance in risks and opportunities in various regions of Africa

Some key takeaways:

  • In the recent Going Global survey by Baker & McKenzie, access to customers was the top motivation for 61 percent of companies moving into Africa.  For example, there are approximately 190 million people in Nigeria, and a growing middle class with purchasing power there.
  • Are you trading, or investing, in Africa? Because selling something, versus putting boots on the ground, has a very different risk profile.
  • If you want a toehold in Africa, perhaps start in a more sophisticated jurisdiction on the continent, and slowly inch your way into others.
  • Because return on investment in Africa is higher, the challenge is to get risk mitigated. Businesses who invest in Africa can be very successful, but it requires you to manage risk effectively. Local counsel is a large part of that.

Learn about Baker & McKenzie in Africa.

Getting Heard at the Deal Table

TORONTO — In our cross-border deals session in Toronto, panelists discussed how to make sure your local team in Canada is heard at the global table during an M&A transaction. Panelists included Baker & McKenzie partners Kamleh Nicola, Arlan Gates and Bill Richardson.

The discussion focused on identifying Canadian pitfalls that could sink a multi-jurisdictional transaction, and making sure the local Canadian team makes the global team aware of those issues.

Here are key takeaways and tips:

  • Get a seat at the deal table.  Have a local decision maker, preferably from the business side, as a liaison to the global deal team.
  • Don’t be afraid to speak up so the global deal team recognizes the unique issues in Canada. Then, when the global team comes to you as the closing date nears, they realize specific considerations in Canada.
  • Keep lines of communication open — vertical channels between the local and global team, and horizontal channels between local business functions / units.
  • Implement a communication method to escalate matters that come up frequently but are not always recognized at the front end.

Insights on the Future of the Canadian Economy

TORONTO — Jeff Rubin, a leading Canadian economist and best-selling author, shared insights on the future of Canada’s economy during his remarks at Doing Business Globally today.

Mr. Rubin discussed how previous predictions that Canada may become an energy superpower with its rich oil sands, may no longer be economically relevant, given the global energy market, decline in oil prices, and climate change.

Instead, he said part of Canada’s economic future may lie in agriculture.

He said  Canadian prairie farmers, who typically grow wheat and canola, may soon start growing corn — a new possibility with warming temperatures. He said we might see a 20 fold increase in corn production in the next decade on Canadian farmland.

We just might find that in a world of climate change, instead of being an energy superpower, we may become one of the world’s breadbaskets, said Mr. Rubin.

Also, he said, bilateral trade with the United States will be a growth opportunity for Canada in the coming years.  He said the devaluation of Canadian currency against the US dollar will provide important trade leverage.

After his remarks, Mr. Rubin separately offered the following insights on the future of the Canadian economy:

“We’re talking about a greener world. It’s going to be important to be able to decarbonize (the Canadian) economy, because I think that’s going to be a key to global competitiveness in an emission-constrained future, that is likely to fall out from these upcoming Paris climate talks.”

Learn more about Mr. Rubin.