Denton Wilde Sapte has made its first foray into East Africa by setting up an association with leading Tanzania firm Mkono & Company.
The deal has been brokered by trade finance partner and East Africa expert Charles Morrison and head of trade finance Geoffrey Wynne.
Mkono & Company consists of nine lawyers and two consultants. It specialises in a range of practice areas including projects, foreign investments and mining, oil and gas.
One leading Africa specialist says: “Mkono is one of the leading firms and has extremely good political connections which is important in a country like Tanzania, often more so than the quality of work.”
Denton Wilde Sapte has been seeking the association to exploit the emerging finance and energy markets and projects work in the region. It is also looking at ways of increasing its African presence beyond the association.
The firm is not the first UK practice to realise the rich pickings available on the continent. Last October CMS Cameron McKenna launched an alliance with Canca Inc and Jowell Glyn & Marais in South Africa. A year before, Stephenson Harwood linked up with Routledge-Modise in Johannesburg.
Wynne says: “This arrangement with Mkono is part of a continuing committed programme to working in Africa and building a global practice.”
Mkono will retain its name but will market itself under the brand of Denton Wilde Sapte. The UK firm currently has no plans to second lawyers to Dar Es Salaam, where Mkono is based, although Wynne and Morrison spend a considerable amount of time in the region.
Tanzania's economy is one of Africa's most active with several major projects already under way.
But the Africa specialist says that the country is always a gamble for western firms. “The potential is enormous but it is very hard to get work. You have to have very good connections, it is not easy and it is very frustrating,” he says.
Morrison joined Denton Hall from Goodman Derrick last year to establish an East African presence.
Mkono was previously associated with Morrison's old practice. But a Goodman Derrick spokeswoman confirms that the alliance was based solely on Morrison's personal relationship. She adds it ended amicably when he left for Denton Hall.