With the sharp increase in commercial relationships between Europe and Africa in recent years, there are more opportunities to be either directly or indirectly involved in African legal matters in collaboration with European attorneys or local African attorneys.

There is a growing number of Japanese companies actually moving into Africa and expanding their business there, but there is much discussion of the numerous difficulties they face in terms of legal disputes. One reason for this is that they are unable to obtain appropriate legal advice, with many African nations having undeveloped legal systems and little experience with the courts.

Because many African nations have inherited or been strongly influenced by the legal systems of the European countries to which they are connected historically, ultimately, they are often an extension of Western practices. Attorneys who have been educated in Anglo-American law or in France would be able to handle local legal matters to a considerable extent by using the OHADA Treaty, although they will require some level of collaboration with local or European attorneys. Countries with a strong European influence also have a greater affinity with international arbitration and the like than Asian countries. It is, therefore, extremely common for arbitration clauses to be included in contracts, and the use of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is very popular.

On the other hand, environments where corruption is rife, societies place importance on loyalty over contract, and where the rule of law is weak are not uncommon. Given such a foundation that is so different from the West, there are cases in which being influenced by local rules has caused serious problems to occur.

For this reason, prevention before legal disputes occur is important, and it is essential to give staff dispatched to the region and locally engaged staff at least a basic knowledge of the law and to raise their awareness of compliance.

With attorneys at our firm who are able to respond in English and French, Kitahama Partners will provide Japanese companies with full support so they can devote themselves to their business, avoiding as much as possible the burden of cultural and language differences in their legal matters.

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