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9 Inspiring Women in the Nigerian LegalTech Space

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Kelechi Achinonu, Founder Techlawyered and Technology Lawyer

In celebration of International Women’s Day, 2020, Techlawyered would like to share with you the stories of extraordinary women in Nigeria who are innovating in their various roles, while leveraging technology to improve the legal practice and access to justice.

Rahila Olu-Silas Ambassador, World Legal Summit (West Africa)

Biggest Success in LegalTech

Collaborating with Open Law Library Washington DC, a U.S.A based Not-for-Profit Organization to automate the process of Bill drafting, codification, and publication of laws in digital formats in Nigeria

What has been your biggest challenge in Legal Technology?

Researching the legal framework that will enable the adoption of Machine-Consumable legislation in Nigeria. This will enable emerging technologies to consume our laws through APIs and process them without the human factor.

What motivates you to keep going?

The possibility of change in the way legal services is delivered in Nigeria

Funkola Odeleye , Co-founder and CEO at DIYLaw.ng

Biggest Success in LegalTech

I am not sure we have hit our biggest success yet but being able to simplify legal services and topics and making them attainable and understandable comes close

What has been your biggest challenge in Legal Technology?

The problem that we are trying to solve is making legal services accessible and our biggest challenge is how to make it accessible for those without access to technology. It is an irony of sorts.

What motivates you to keep going?

The sheer number of jobs that are being created because people are able to launch their businesses through our platform keeps me going. Also, getting kind words and referrals from people who have used our platform is an affirmation that we are doing something right.

Also Read : Women in Tech: Interview With Anna Collard, Founder Popcorn Training – A KnowBe4 Company

Adejoke Are , Co-founder/Project Lead, The Flemer Project

Biggest Success in LegalTech

I run an organization – the Flemer Project – that helps indigent pretrial detainees conclude their matters in court as quickly as possible, by leveraging on the support of young volunteer lawyers who directly provide legal representation to these detainees.

Although we are never physically present in court to monitor the performance of our volunteer lawyers, incorporating technology into our solution has made monitoring and evaluating their work quite a seamless affair. Through this approach, we have been able to provide legal representation to almost 200 indigent pretrial detainees and to secure the release of 60 of them from prison.

What has been your biggest challenge in Legal Technology?

I don’t have any technical experience or skill in building technology platforms and this has been a drag on the development of a comprehensive technology platform needed to manage our overall operations.

What motivates you to keep going?

The passion of our young volunteer lawyers who go over and beyond to give their best to people who can never repay them, and the fact that our solution literally changes people’s lives by helping them regain their freedom.

Oluwatosin Amusan , Product Development Lead, Mylaw.ng

Biggest Success in LegalTech

Delivering legal services to customers via technology, from the comfort of their couch. The fact that my team and I were able to develop products and show value enough to earn the trust of customers who end up drawing on the products on mylaw.ng and coming back for more.

What has been your biggest challenge in Legal Technology?

Constantly answering the question “Is legal technology a viable sector in Nigeria”. Looking at it from a global perspective with 3 unicorns in legal tech this question does not surface in the international scene. However, In Nigeria, we have quite a number of legal tech startups who have to prove themselves 10 times harder, show double the traction required to prove that this is a viable sector.

What motivates you to keep going?

The refusal to settle for mediocrity. I make it a ritual to look back at works I have done in various facets of my life every six months, and without a doubt, I see the growth not just intellectually but in physical form. It is easy to get complacent with doing just what is required, but there is always room to improve and do better. No one changed the world by doing what just was required of them.

Faith Obafemi , Head of Strategy, Future-Proof Intelligence

Biggest Success in LegalTech

Establishing as a recognized expert in the blockchain space in less than 2 years. This has been a never-ending journey that has stretched me intellectually, financially, emotionally and otherwise. But, I have been better for it. I have met some of the most amazing persons on this journey. People who help broaden your horizon.

What has been your biggest challenge in Legal Technology?

Breaking/building a tech foundation. In the early days, things were just mostly Greek to me. But, the more I kept at it, the familiar it became and the easier it was to understand.

What motivates you to keep going?

Money! Hahaha, I know most people would’ve been expecting something knight worthy like passion to help others, desire to impact, etc. Well, why all that is great, it still requires money. I am yet to see a broke person help another or have an impact on others.  So, yes, money motivates me to keep going. Because, with money as a tool, I can achieve other things that I hold dear.

Rhoda Obi-Adigwe, Founder Wemora

Biggest Success in LegalTech

Our greatest success was when Hill gave us an award and a grant for our legal software which aids in the writing of will and creation of trust online. This was very inspiring to us knowing that our efforts were being recognized.

What has been your biggest challenge in Legal Technology?

Our biggest challenge to legal technology is cultural and traditional bias. People are still skeptical to include their personal and private details online making it difficult to prepare legal documents for them. This fear also arises from the fact that the country has no stringent data policy laws.

What motivates you to keep going?

The legal tech space is evolving and we are beginning to see most traditional things done online like the CAC providing platforms for business registration, so our motivation is to keep pressing knowing fully well that these changes and policies will soon affect our own part of legal IT.

Yinka Bada , Lead Product Manager, LawPavilion Business Solutions

Biggest Success in LegalTech

One of the things I can consider as part of my biggest success in legal technology is two-fold:

i. My involvement in conceptualizing and facilitating the development and continuous improvement of software solutions that solve challenges around Practice Management, Legal Research and Legal Drafting for lawyers and judges, hence improving their efficiency by making it easier for them to do more in less time than usual. I’ve been working with a team of bright minds to continuously improve the leading Electronic Law Reports platform; the only one with Legal Analytics, and most cited in courts by top lawyers, and judges of both the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court.

ii. Leading and mentoring at different times,  young and aspiring Product Managers and Software Engineers  to passionately seek to identify the pain points in our justice delivery system, and  proffer innovative solutions

What has been your biggest challenge in Legal Technology?

What I can consider as a challenge for me in legal technology is the huge amount of time, efforts and resources it has taken over the years to build and communicate the value of legal-tech solutions to the conservative legal industry; the sweet thing, however, is that this same industry is now embracing technology fully, and even asking for more

What motivates you to keep going?

The joy of facilitating an accelerated (albeit gradual) access to justice in Nigeria-  the possibility of having the practice of law and ultimately, the dispensation of justice continually become technologically improved for more efficiency and effectiveness.

Nankunda Katangaza , Co-founder, African Law & Tech Network (ALT Network)

Biggest Success in LegalTech

I guess my biggest success in legal technology was in following my hunch that there was a need and interest on the part of African legal professionals in technology and what it could do for the legal sector and creating the ALT Network to kick-start that conversation on the continent. The ALT Network has grown to over 150 individual and business members over the past two years and has a thriving community and activities across the continent which I could not have predicted when we set up the platform!

Engaging with the fast-growing African tech community has brought incredible insight into the legal and regulatory needs of tech disruptors across all sectors. I am delighted that the Network has quickly grown into a valued pan-African interlocutor in the discussion between lawyers, technologists, and regulators to build effective, responsive and progressive frameworks for tech growth in Africa.

What has been your biggest challenge in Legal Technology?

My biggest challenge is also one that can be described as a ‘first world problem’ in that it is the challenge of opportunity and time – so many opportunities, not enough time! In the short couple of years, it has been around, ALT has attracted a significant following and interest from across the African legal and tech sectors.

Law cuts across each and every area of personal, public and commercial life and as such, ALT and its membership have a role to play across the continent from influencing public policy to creating tools for delivering access to the law to all. Finding the time to explore and follow all the possibilities and requests alongside a full-time job does keep me up at night!

What motivates you to keep going?

I have to say that the energy and enthusiasm of the ALT members is more motivation than anyone could ask for! Each day brings a new member. Each week brings a new idea and opportunity in a different country from an existing member so there’s never a quiet moment.

But more than anything, the prospect of bringing together people and entities from across the continent who are all driven by the same thing – to create and build prosperity for all Africans through innovative tech use and creating an enabling legal environment for success. It has also been amazing to meet so many Africans working in different sectors and industries and to collaborate with some of them.

Our recent partnership with Africa Digital Heritage, for example, to explore the legal issues arising in tech and the preservation of African cultural heritage was eye-opening and inspirational. I look forward to ALT continuing to be at the heart of similar collaborations and conversations over the years.

Also Read: Women in Tech: Interview With Elaine Wang, Cloud and Software Solutions Director for Rectron

Odunoluwa Longe, Country Director, Acceleration (West Africa) at HiiL

Biggest Success in LegalTech

My greatest success is seeing the entrepreneurs succeed. Success here does not just entail in competitions but in the ecosystem as well.

What has been your biggest challenge in Legal Technology?

My biggest challenge has been finding businesses that are solving justice problems and are focused on doing the same. A lot of people do not realize that justice is beyond just legal tech, It should be more focused on people gaining access to services that actually help them solve their problems.

What motivates you to keep going?

I am motivated by the need to help entrepreneurs and see them succeed.

Please join Techlawyered to celebrate these Wonder Women of Legal Tech.

Article By: Kelechi Achinonu

Legal Business

The Importance Of Good Legal Advice When Doing Business In Nigeria Today – Morenike George-Taylor

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Morenike George-Taylor, Group Managing Director of the Flux Group (Image: Morenike George-Taylor)

Every business owner and consultant knows that taking into consideration, COVID -19 lockdowns, END SARS protest, the twitter ban and the rate of the dollar to the Naira, business in Nigeria has been a roller coaster between 2020 and 2021. Business owners had to learn a lot of things and I hope to share them in a series of articles.  However, I want to emphasize the importance of good legal advice when doing business in Nigeria. Simply put… it is critical.

Once the COVID-19 lockdown happened, it was a shock to everyone that we could all put our businesses on hold and be forced to work remotely. Zoom became more popular and it became more difficult to physically sign documents. People started using electronic signatures to sign their documents. The question is whether under Nigerian law, an electronic signature is as good as a physical signature. If someone appends an electronic signature to a document, how can you be sure it is their signature? How can you be sure that they wouldn’t deny that signature later on?

More legal issues arose with END SARS, more people had to look into what their insurance contracts cover and do not cover. With the rate of the dollar, loan agreements where businesses collected international funding went awry. A $100,000 loan given in 2019 and repayable in 2021 was now significantly harder to repay and businesses explored whether the drastic rise in the exchange rate was enough to constitute force majeure.

In the midst of all this, those with good lawyers were able to navigate the troubled waters and find solutions even where they were in between a rock and hard place. Those without good lawyers made mistakes that cost them a lot of money. A lot of businesses folded up because they were unable to survive. This is why I have the following tips:

  1. Always read legal documents before you sign them.
  2. Pay attention to the exclusion clauses in your insurance contracts.
  3. Only accept electronic signatures from trusted clients whose signatures you can confirm.
  4. Pay attention to force majeure clauses in loan agreements you execute and be careful and consider all mitigating and hedging products that can help when receiving loans repayable in foreign currency.
  5. Put everything in writing, agreements, orders, receipts and so on.
  6. Get a good lawyer on retainer.

We are all trying to survive and build thriving businesses. I hope these tips save you a penny or two as you run your business.

Article by: Morenike George-Taylor

 

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South Africa: Guidance issued on mandatory vaccination policies for the workplace

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Image: WHO

South Africa: After months of speculation, the Department of Employment and Labour in South Africa has provided guidance in relation to vaccination policies within the workplace. On 11 June 2021, the Minister published an amendment to the Consolidated Direction on Occupational Health and Safety Measures in Certain Workplaces (Directive), which makes provision for employers to implement a mandatory vaccination policy in its workplace.

Implementing the policy

Before an employer implements such a policy, it must undertake a risk assessment within 21 days of the Directive being published, i.e. by 2 July 2021. This risk assessment must:

• take into consideration the employer’s operational requirements;
• indicate whether it intends to implement a mandatory vaccination policy;
• identify which employees it will require to be vaccinated based on the risk of acquiring COVID-19 at work, or the risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms due to the employee’s age or co-morbidities; and
• be conducted in accordance with section 8 and 9 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, which places a duty on the employer to maintain a working environment for its employees and other persons that is safe and, as far as reasonably practicable, free from health risks.

Developing a plan

The employer must then develop a plan which sets out the measures it will implement to ensure the workplace is safe for its employees. This plan should indicate whether the employer intends to make the vaccine mandatory for any employees, and must identity the employees who will be required to be vaccinated, the process which will be followed to ensure compliance with the Directive and whether the employer plans to make the vaccine mandatory as and when it becomes available to employees. Any employer who is of the opinion that the vaccination of its employees is necessary for their health and safety may implement a mandatory vaccination policy. The employer’s risk assessment should, however, support this requirement and indicate that there is a legitimate need for the workforce to be vaccinated.

Right to refuse

The Directive sets out guidelines to employers when drafting and implementing a mandatory vaccination policy. In terms of the guidelines, importance is placed on “public health, the constitutional rights of employees and the efficient operation of the employer’s business.” Where an employer makes vaccination mandatory, it must notify each employee identified in the plan that such employee must be vaccinated as and when the vaccination is available to them, and that the employee may consult with a health and safety worker or trade union representative, should the employee wish to do so. Further, the employer must inform the employee of their right to refuse the vaccine on medical or constitutional grounds. These grounds are specified in the guidelines and makes provision for an employee to refuse the vaccine on the medical basis of a “contra‑indication” of the vaccine (i.e. an allergic reaction to the first dose of the vaccine or to a component of the vaccine), or the constitutional basis of the employee’s right to bodily integrity and/or right to freedom of conscience, religion, thought, belief and opinion, as set out in section 12 and 15 of the Constitution.

The Directive prescribes that where an employee does raise one of these objections, the employer is required to counsel the employee, refer such an employee for a medical evaluation for any allergic reaction to the vaccine and, where necessary, reasonably accommodate the employee in accordance with the Code of Good Practice: Employment of People with Disabilities, as published in terms of the Employment Equity Act. Such reasonable accommodation may include allowing the employee to work offsite, at home, in isolation at the workplace, or in limited circumstance, the employer may require the employee to work with a N95 mask.

Where an employer does implement a mandatory vaccination policy and an employee refuses to be vaccinated, the employer must ensure that the grounds for refusal are considered fully and that the employee is consulted in relation to the grounds raised. However, should the employer be unable to reasonably accommodate the employee and the employee continues to refuse to be vaccinated, an incapacity procedure must be followed before the employer may terminate the employee’s contract.

Paid time off

In terms of section 4(1)(k) of the Directive, employers must give employees paid time off at the date and time of their vaccination, regardless of whether such vaccination is in terms of a vaccination policy or not, and sick leave must be used should an employee experience any adverse side effects from the vaccine. An employer may request proof of the vaccination when returning to work, or proof that the vaccination will take place during working hours. Where an employee is vaccinated in terms of the mandatory vaccination plan, the employer must afford the employee paid time off for adverse side effects of the vaccine, even if the employee has exhausted their sick leave entitlement. Alternatively, the employer may lodge a claim with the Compensation Fund, in terms of the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act. In addition, the employer should organize transport to and from the vaccination site, if possible, for employees identified in the mandatory vaccination policy.

Next steps

In order to comply with the Directive, employers must update their risk assessment of the workplace, taking into consideration any employees who are required to be vaccinated. Employers must take notice of the timeframe afforded by the Directive and ensure that the plan is in place before the 21 day period has lapsed. It is important for employers to conduct the risk assessment objectively and determine the actual need for vaccinations in the workplace and amongst certain categories of employees. Further, any objection raised by an employee should be considered seriously and the employer should try to accommodate such employee where possible. However, the employer may dismiss the employee for incapacity as a last resort.

By Kirsty Gibson, Associate, and Johan Botes, Partner and Head of the Employment & Compensation Practice, Baker McKenzie Johannesburg

 

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Developments in competition law in post-pandemic Africa

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Image Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

With the growth of economies across Africa, competition law has remained one of the key drivers for effective market participation, consumer protection and fair business practices. However, the global pandemic introduced new challenges for competition authorities in Africa and abroad, with each enforcer pursuing the most beneficial enforcement method for its national or regional jurisdiction.

According to Lerisha Naidu, Partner in Baker McKenzie’s Competition & Antitrust Practice in Johannesburg, “These efforts were aimed at curbing the persistence of unjustified price hikes, anti-competitive cooperation between competitors and other harmful business practices that sought to undermine competition. In addition to the urgent responses to the unprecedented impacts of the global COVID-19 crisis, competition authorities in countries and regions across Africa continued to introduce new laws and amend existing legislation as a sign of the rapidly increasing prioritisation of competition law enforcement on the continent.”

COVID-19 Responses

Competition authorities across the continent had already established strategies for maintaining competition and limiting instances of customer exploitation in their respective countries by early March 2020.

“Competition authorities in Kenya, Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia, Nigeria and South Africa reacted quickly to pandemic impacts by introducing new guidelines and regulations,” noted Angelo Tzarevski, a senior associate in Baker McKenzie’s Competition Practice in Johannesburg.

Amendments to existing laws

Various jurisdictions have recently strengthened their competition law regimes by way of amendments to the existing legislation or by introducing entirely new laws to facilitate their enforcement efforts.

“For example, Botswana’s Competition Act came into force at the end of 2018.  Kenya recently introduced a host of new laws, guidelines and rules that relate to buyer power, the valuation of assets in merger transactions, block exemption of certain mergers from notification, merger thresholds and filing fees, market definition, and new guidelines for the determination of administrative penalties. Ghana’s Draft Competition Bill is currently before parliament awaiting passage into law, and Egypt and Mauritius amended their competition legislation by introducing or giving effect to new provisions and regulations. In South Africa, price discrimination and buyer power provisions that were previously introduced by the Competition Amendment Act have since come into effect. Regulations were also issued to facilitate the interpretation and application of these provisions,” said Tzarevski.

In addition to country-specific regulation, a number of regional competition regulators in Africa are impacting domestic markets. Such regulators include the West African Economic Monetary Union (WAEMU), the East African Community (EAC), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC). While not a regional regulator, the African Competition Forum, an association of African competition agencies, promotes competition policy awareness in Africa and the adoption of competition policies and laws. The Forum also facilitates regular contact between authorities, creating a platform for the sharing of best practice and domestic competition trends.

“African competition law continues to develop at a rapid pace, boosted by the implementation of protective strategies necessary during the peak of the pandemic. An increasing number of jurisdictions have adopted laws and regulations, established authorities, secured membership to regional antitrust regimes and ramped-up enforcement of suspected violations of prevailing competition laws at both domestic and regional levels.

As such, organisations transacting across borders in Africa must ensure they are compliant with a myriad of local and intersecting regional competition laws to avoid facing the wrath of the continent’s competition authorities. Access to standardised, cross-border information on the latest competition law developments in Africa has become essential for those transacting in the region,” added Naidu.

Baker McKenzie recently produced a comprehensive guide covering the latest developments in African competition law in 25 countries across the continent – An Overview of Competition & Antitrust Regulations and Developments in Africa: 2021

By Angela Matthewson for Baker McKenzie Johannesburg

 

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