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Introducing GreenRidge Foundation

Technology as a catalyst to the Pro Bono culture in Africa: GreenRidge Foundation in Perspective

With a particularly young population, Africa is set the be the hub of innovation and commerce. At the centre of this innovation and commerce are the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) who account for most of Africa’s nominal GDP and employments.

Like any other business, MSMEs encounter challenges such as limited access to finance, payments, logistical issues and of course legal and regulatory issues. For some of these MSMEs, legal and regulatory costs are not cost they can bear without impact on the other aspects of their business. Sadly, because these businesses do not have the right legal and regulatory support, it tends to affect other aspects of their business, such as access to funds through loans and equity investments, because they pose a higher risk to financiers and investors.  

The growth and sustenance of these small businesses is essential to the overall economic development of the African continent and as the World Economic Forum puts it, helping African SMEs to flourish is crucial not only for Africa but for the global economy, because it creates a growing middle class with disposable income, in tandem with market opportunities for new investors.

Lawyers play a crucial role in assisting Africa’s entrepreneurs resolve some of their legal and regulatory issues, particularly those who cannot afford to pay for legal services. This brings the concept of transactional legal aid to the fore, through which corporate law firms can assist small business owners by provision of legal and business advisory services, as well as regulatory compliance services.

To assist the right kind of entrepreneurs that will power Africa’s economic development, the law firms have to be able to find them and understand their legal needs. This is the gap that GreenRidge Foundation is plugging.  We have developed and deployed a technology that seamlessly connects entrepreneurs with corporate law firms, who offer transactional legal aid to these entrepreneurs.

How the Technology Works…

  1. Easy Sign Up: Both the law firms and the entrepreneurs can create profiles for their law firms and their businesses respectively, with just a few clicks.
  • Applying For Legal Aid: The portal provides guidance to entrepreneurs on how to apply for legal aid and how to justify the need and qualification for same.
  • Email notifications: The portal notifies relevant parties by email when an action has been taken, such as when a request has been assigned and approved, or where a review has been completed.
  • Tracking Applications: Entrepreneurs can track the status of their applications from the dashboard and effect any updates required during review by the portal administrators.
  • Receive Swift Responses – Access to legal services can be achieved within 3-5 days.
  • Review of Application: After the portal administrators have reviewed and assigned requests to law firms, the law firms also have a chance to review the requests to determine whether or not to accept the pro bono client.  
  • Record Hours: The portal allows law firms record the time spent doing pro bono work for each client and a summary is accessible on the dashboard.
  • Track Impact: The portal determines the monetary value of the pro bono hours invested by law firms using some parameters and provides insight into the impact the law firm has made.

Beyond connecting entrepreneurs with law firms, the Foundation is also creating awareness around the need for transactional legal aid in Africa. At its just concluded webinar on “Community Economic Development: The Place for Corporate and Tractional Pro Bono Lawyers in Africa”, leading lawyers from Hogan Lovells LLP, Sidley Austin LLP, Herbert Smith Freehills LLP, Templars and KTA Advocates, discussed the value transactional pro bono adds to economic development in Africa.

It is important to add that GreenRidge Foundation’s work aligns with Goals 8, 9, 10 and 17 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

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