Three years after being founded, Afriwise welcomes new investors to its shareholding, with Jacques Emsens and Christophe de Limburg Stirum joining the company’s board of directors, where they are welcomed by early investors Bart Sobry (Zoutman/Potrell) and Mathias Vandaele (Hectaar).
The fresh round of funding and the expertise and network of the new investors are expected to be a major boost to the company, which is already taking Africa’s legal sector by storm.
Good corporate governance requires organisations to ensure they are sufficiently familiar with applicable laws in the countries they operate in and to have systems in place to understand the legal requirements, risks and developments relevant to their operations. Good quality data and information are therefore essential for organisations to comply with domestic laws anywhere in the world.
Afriwise launched at the end of 2018 to address the poor availability of up-to-date and quality legal information across Africa. Existing solutions were failing to meet needs and expectations, with providers not focused on Africa and information often patchy, inconsistent and not properly maintained. While even basic legislation can be difficult to find, there are other specific legal challenges such as unusual concepts, incomplete and incoherent legal frameworks, lack of transparency, form-over-substance issues and, more importantly, established practices that may differ from written laws. Legal counsel and compliance officers at companies active in Africa, experiencing the fear and panic of advising their internal stakeholders from a position of total ignorance, are often faced with only one option – directly instructing in-country counsel. This has fostered an environment where organisations in Africa are confronted with high and unpredictable legal costs.
Afriwise’s founding mission to combat this was widely viewed as an impossible task. The depth and breadth of the legal information Afriwise proposed to pull together on its platform, let alone maintain, was inconceivable, especially in markets without any basic information to start from. However, Afriwise was uniquely placed to succeed. Founder Steven De Backer was lecturing in legal-tech as far back as the 1990s. Raised in Africa, he returned to the continent to practise as a lawyer, where he was at the forefront of establishing and deepening a network of associated firms in Africa and helped to develop the Africa practice of what is today one of the leading law firms on the continent. Since 2003, Steven has advised companies as a lawyer in over 40 African countries. Afriwise and where it is now is the result of his tireless efforts over the years to create alternative and sustainable legal solutions that can suit the requirements and budgets of any type of organisation, big or small, for profit or non-profit.
Today, if legal counsel or compliance officers want to know what merger thresholds apply in the DRC, or what data protection requirements apply in Nigeria,they can simply log on to the Afriwise platform and instantly find the answer and all information pertinent to the topic. Crucially, the legal content is constantly being reviewed and updated on a purpose-built online user interface. The platform also features legal-monitoring tools, an underlying service for clarification requests and direct access to top in-country legal experts.
By promoting good corporate governance and increasing access to justice and legal services across the African continent, Afriwise significantly contributes to the UN Development Goals (particularly SDG 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions) and the European Union’s strategy for its partnership with Africa.
By joining forces with, and fully integrating, the African legal sector into its platform, Afriwise further contributes to the SDGs to accelerate progress in the legal and justice space. Indeed, Afriwise works with over 100 law firms across Africa to provide the in-depth practical legal guidance available on the platform, making it the largest collaborative effort ever undertaken in the African professional services sector. Many of the firms and lawyers who power Afriwise’s content joined as a result of longstanding relationships forged over three decades through Steven’s legal work in Africa.
“We are still at the beginning of our journey, however, this announcement of a significant capital injection by European investors is a sign that people are seeing possibilities for Afriwise to become a very big company. We have already done the impossible; today our platform is significantly improving the business operations of large multinationals in 11 countries on the continent.
I feel immensely proud at reaching this milestone, made possible by our dedicated team and the collaborations we have forged with law firms across Africa. Our success depends on them. With regulators and legislators expressing a growing appetite for levying fines for companies not complying with local legislation and regulations – for example in the fields of data protection and corporate house-keeping – accessing quality legal information and counsel has never been more important for businesses. We will continue to adapt our platform to meet the needs of our subscribers. Over the coming months and years, I am confident that Afriwise is set to become the undisputed leader of legal information and tools in Africa,” said Steven De Backer, Afriwise’s founder.
The investment will be used to add more relevant content for users, accelerate growth into new countries, and further develop the platform’s technology.
Afriwise has been heralded for not only stimulating business for African law firms, allowing them to generate profits in new ways, but also for its contributions to the ease of doing business more generally. Through facilitating business processes, it is indirectly promoting investment in Africa. In recognition of its role in doing so, Afriwise has racked up an impressive list of prestigious awards, including the 2020 NABC Doing Business in Africa Award, and the African Legal Award’s highly-competitive Innovation Award, which it has been awarded for two years running.
Afriwise is trusted by multiple international firms such as Bolloré, IBM, Deloitte, Barloworld, Vodafone, Roche, DHL, General Electric and MTN and many others that have adopted the solution to streamline their business operations.
Afriwise was advised by BNP Paribas in this transaction.
Congratulations to AfriWise. We are proud to have them as a member of the ALT Network.