Interview with Peter Kasanda Legal Director Clyde & Co Tanzania

TanzaniaInvest.com has been interviewing Mr.Peter Kasanda Legal Director at Clyde & Co International Law Firm.

TanzaniaInvest.com: Peter, you have been active in Tanzania for a number of years but you have only recently moved here permanently, to direct Clyde & Co. The firm is presently in the African Continent in Libya and in Tanzania. Why Tanzania, amongst so many other Sub-Saharan countries?

PK : It’s a good question. Clyde & Co has been in Africa and certainly in Tanzania for over fifteen years. We have been in association with Ako Law, a local law firm for all of that time. So we have not just arrived. Ako Law has been perhaps the most successful tax practice in Tanzania and Clyde & Co provided transactional support to that offering.

Kibuta Ongwamuhana, a highly respected and well known lawyer in Tanzania was and still is the Managing Partner of Ako Law.

Given the closeness with which the firms operate – out of the same offices and deploying lawyers interchangeably, Clyde & Co Tanzania was launched, which cements the relationship.

Kibuta is the Managing Director of Clyde & Co Tanzania and I am the Legal Director of Clyde & Co Tanzania.

TI : What was the origin of such a deal? Tanzania is a country of good economic growth and political stability but there are probably markets that are growing faster. What was the reason or urgency for a presence in Tanzania?

PK : Tanzania is a country with enormous potential and set for a huge increase in foreign direct investment in the coming years.

We believe our core areas of practice focusing on the oil & gas, mining, infrastructure and construction, taxation, telecoms, banking and financial services and general corporate sectors sit well with the growing markets in Tanzania.

We try and match our expertise with the developments of the specific countries in which we operate. With Tanzania it was a natural fit.

should flag that Clyde & Co does not always go to the most obvious markets. We’ve got associations and good relationships in Zimbabwe for example as well as being the first international law firm to open an office in Libya since the revolution.

We are also the first to have undertaken several transactions in the Yemen. We do not just follow trends of other international law firms .

We go where our skills are matched with the environment and where we can add real value. We also try and enter early.

We consider Tanzania a natural hub for undertaking work in East Africa.

We are conscious that most people would associate this with Nairobi or Johannesburg,  but we believe Tanzania has this potential.

TI : That’s interesting. Having the hub first in Dar es Salaam. Then having it spread to Kenya and beyond rather than the other way around. That in itself signifies a lot.

PK : Yes, it does. We really do support the aspirations of the Tanzanian people as well as the objectives of the Tanzanian government in developing this country.

Our added value is that we are a Tanzanian entity here in Dar es Salaam but we have a huge international network with 30 offices worldwide backing us up with know-how and international standards.

TI : You mentioned before some of the sectors where Clyde & Co are stronger. In Tanzania, which one if any are your focus sectors and what are the key services in which you feel stronger than others?

PK : It is hard to pick one areas as there is so much to talk about in Tanzania.

But if I am forced to give one as an example, the gas sector is one among several which is experiencing high growth in Tanzania.

Development is going to be huge in the gas sector in the future.

We have oil and gas experts throughout the Clyde & Co network which means we’re well positioned to leverage this expertise.

Law firms here traditionally have generalists who can turn their hand to many areas.

Indeed there are some excellent lawyers in the Tanzanian market who I’ve learnt a great deal from since I arrived.

Taking nothing away from this, clients are now looking for real experts in a particular area. Lawyers who only do one thing.

Our firm has such experts here in Tanzania. Lawyers who only do tax, others who only do oil & gas, others mining.

So this gives clients comfort they are going to someone who lives and breathes an area of law.

TI : And what about yourself?

PK : Me personally, I am a Banking and Project Finance Lawyer.

So I do projects which cover the construction and infrastructure sectors, ports, airports, roads, real estate development. So that is my specialism.

TI : You are an International Law Firm with a local team and culture. How does Clyde & Co make things smoother and more effective?

PK : That’s a good question. What we have here are international lawyers that have expertise abroad collaborating with fantastic Tanzanian Lawyers with great local knowledge.

That combination is very powerful. Why? Because all the direct investment in Tanzania in the last few years has come from large corporates at home or international investors.

Having both international and local lawyers embedded in one practice works extremely well.

Clients also appreciate us because we do everything at local rates and not international rates!

TI : Peter, what is the profile of the clientele which you are currently advising?

PK : Our rules of practice say we cannot disclose client information. The clients are generally sector based. We have oil and gas clients, we have banking clients, we have telecom clients and we have agriculture clients to mention just a few sectors. The clients are reflective of the growth areas in the Tanzanian Economy.

We have small local clients as well as bigger international clients. We provide exactly the same professional level of service to both types.

What we provide to local businesses as well is not just legal services.

Sometimes we have a small or medium enterprise who has a good idea or a plot of land.

They need international finances but have no connections. We are the confluence point for all of our businesses.

So we often put clients with similar interest in touch with each other. Prior to coming here I was with the African Development Bank based in Tunisia which does a huge amount of projects in Africa. There are a lot of clients here who do not know the bank.

I have a good relationship with the local offices of this bank and several other development finance institutions operating in Tanzania so I often refer potential borrowers to them.

We also support the community through a good social responsibility program. We do pro bono work. We support the communities and we are here to stay.

That is a big commitment. That is because we have confidence in the Tanzanian market.

TI : Peter, where would you like to see Clyde & Co Tanzania it the next five years? What are the challenges ahead?

PK : I think the challenge is for institutions to keep pace with the Tanzanian economy. We need to build capacity in these institutions.

For us as a firm, we track the economy. If the Tanzanian economy is growing at a certain percentage, we want to grow at the same speed.

We also want to build capacity among our lawyers. Every couple of weeks an expert from the Clyde network flies into Dar es Salaam and gives training to our lawyers. We also intend to send our Tanzanian Lawyers to our offices in Dubai, New York and London to mention but a few locations for international experience .

Whether these lawyers stay with us or not, they are going to be leaders in their  sectors in Tanzania, and we are proud to have contributed to this.

TI : You are a foreigner lawyer that moved to Tanzania. How would you explain what is going on here?

PK : I think that Tanzania is going through a huge development cycle. We have always been very lucky here with the stability in politics.

The development and innovation happening here is massive. The innovation cycle here is probably bigger than anywhere I’ve seen in the last 20 years.

What has been happening in Tanzania the last couple of years is really extraordinary. I think you have seen the changes.

That is why I’m here. It is the opportunity. It beckons, and I want to move with it.