Unlocking Africa’s potential

Hogan Lovells agrees South African merger with former Eversheds ally

Africa is a continent largely untapped by international firms, but one that promises exciting prospects for those that get on the ground first. Last week Hogan Lovells made its first move into the region through a merger with former Eversheds ally Routledge Modise.

As significant as it may seem, some on the ground are questioning what impact the move will really have on the local market. Routledge Modise is a respected outfit, but not a member of a formal pan-African network, unlike some of its regional rivals. While South Africa remains a hub for many businesses, others are now starting to set up on the ground in some of the continent’s other, arguably more exciting economies.

South African growth, in fact, is fairly sluggish at just over 2 per cent, compared with somewhere between 6 and 10 per cent for economies like Angola, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda or Zambia.

That said, none of the other firms that do have a formal network arrangement show any appetite for merging. Webber Wentzel’s alliance with Linklaters earlier this year is the closest any of the big South African firms have come to a merger since Norton Rose’s 2010 tie-up with Deneys Reitz. The likes of Bowman Gilfillan, ENS and Werksmans are all set on remaining independent from the global players.

With the backing of Hogan Lovells, perhaps it is now time for Routledge Modise to break into the African big league.