Hosted by GAIL Africa Regional Board

This event was hosted by GAIL Africa in partnership with Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL), Stories Evolved, and Puxley ESG on 26 June 2024.

Our panel navigated the tensions lawyers face in balancing business interests with the evolving regulatory demands of the Global North, and the impacts of climate change, biodiversity loss, and social issues in Africa. It featured a diverse mix of private practice and in-house perspectives from various African regions, offering invaluable insights into these critical issues.

Moderated by Prof. Richard Calland, Director, Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) Africa South Africa, and featuring the following panellists;
NanaAma Botchway, Managing Partner, n. dowuona & company (Ghana)
Stefanie Busch, Senior Associate, ENS (Namibia)
Christina Nduba-Banja, Partner, Bowmans (Law Firm) (Kenya)
Victoria Puxley, Founder, Puxley ESG (Kenya)
Jesse Zigmund, General Counsel, M-KOPA (Kenya)

Listen to this webinar to:
– Learn how to balance business interests with regulatory demands
– Understand the impact of climate change and biodiversity loss on legal practices
– Explore the social issues affecting Africa and their legal implications
– Gain insights from leading experts in private practice and in-house roles

The event hosted by the Global Alliance of Impact Lawyers (GAIL) and focused on the critical role of African impact lawyers in navigating business interests, global regulations, and climate challenges.

The Role of Lawyers in Leadership

Professor Richard Calland highlighted the role of the professional trusted advisor as a leader, someone who can influence change through their professional expertise and their approach. He suggested that the role of lawyers has been somewhat underplayed so far, particularly as management consultants.

Current Moment in History

CISL convened a global summit on leadership in February titled “Leadership in the Age of Turbulence.” They concluded that the core challenge explored was the preservation of human civilisation. This is the leadership challenge of our times. Addressing this scale and complexity of challenge will take everything, everywhere, all at once. Progress will be messy and unsatisfactory, and leaders need to grow comfortable with this fact. This requires intellectual honesty, integrity, and humility to recognise that the world is complex and that progress will not be easy, but this is no excuse for inaction.

Africa’s Crossroads

Africa stands at a crossroads with an extraordinary opportunity in the energy transition, specifically regarding critical minerals, carbon sinks, green hydrogen, and green industrialisation. The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) released a report in March on just and sustainable transition finance, emphasising the need for innovative approaches to mobilise massive amounts of public and private resources.

Dr. Gary Kendall, one of our fellows, puts it simply: we need to transition from an extractive, exploitative, exclusive, and excessive economic model to one that is regenerative, reciprocal, representative, and restrained.

This webinar navigates the tensions lawyers face in balancing business interests with the evolving regulatory demands of the global North and the impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss with social issues in Africa. 

Panel Discussion

1. Jesse Zigmund (M-Kopa):

   – Discussed innovative business models addressing social problems, such as off-grid solar products and fintech solutions.

   – Highlighted the legal team’s role in navigating regulatory grey areas responsibly.

2. Victoria Puxley (Puxley ESG):

   – Addressed the impact of EU regulations (CSRD, EUD, CS3D) on Kenyan businesses.

   – Emphasised the need for African lawyers to protect business interests and advocate for local voices in global regulatory discussions.

3. Christina Nduba-Banja (Bowmans):

   – Described the efforts of African countries to align regulations with global standards.

   – Mentioned challenges in implementing modern regulations due to sudden transitions and local context mismatches.

4. Stefanie Busch (ENS Namibia)

   – Described the dilemma Namibia faces as one of the most unequal societies. 

   – Discussed the contradiction that exists in Namibia due to it being recognised as a top green hydrogen producer in 2020 and then in 2022, significant oil finds being announced.

5. NanaAma Botchway (n. dowuona & company):

   – Shared her perspective on the role of professional lawyers in the green transition discussing the challenges that arise in the lack of clarity of the regulations and local content regulation.

   – Discussed the importance of finding solutions that benefit both the client and Africa.

Key Points Discussed

  • Enhanced Due Diligence and Compliance: Businesses are proactively aligning with international standards to mitigate legal risks.
  • Integration of ESG Criteria: ESG considerations are becoming central to business strategies, driven by regulatory requirements and investor expectations.
  • Investment in Green Technologies: Businesses are investing in sustainable practices and technologies to reduce their carbon footprint and open new growth opportunities.
  • Focus on Social License to Operate: Engaging with local communities and stakeholders is crucial for maintaining a responsible business image.
  • Risk Management and Scenario Planning: Companies are adopting comprehensive risk management strategies to anticipate and address climate and regulatory changes.
  • Collaborative Approaches and Partnerships: Forming partnerships across sectors is essential to address complex sustainability challenges.
  • Educating and Empowering Internal Stakeholders: Building internal capacity through training and creating dedicated sustainability roles is key for embedding ESG in corporate culture.

Audience Interaction and Further Discussion

  • Highlighted the need for legal education to incorporate ESG topics from university to ongoing professional development.
  • Emphasised practical experiences like internships and mentorship programs to provide real-world insights into ESG issues.
  • Discussed strategies to persuade sceptical clients about the importance of ESG by demonstrating tangible benefits and regulatory trends.
  • Stressed the importance of storytelling in making a compelling case for sustainable practices.

Conclusion

  • Final advice for lawyers: start integrating ESG into decision-making processes, stay informed, embrace collaboration, and focus on building client relationships.
  • Recognised the significant yet underappreciated role of lawyers in promoting sustainability and shaping global regulations.
  • Called for continued collaboration among impact lawyers to leverage their influence in driving sustainable business practices.