The PM Communications team interviewed Mr. Brian Kaggwa, Senior Partner of Impala Legal Advocates & Consultants, and asked him about the services offered by Impala Legal. Mr. Kaggwa spoke about his company’s commitment to spoiling their customers, and offering boutique services, so they can arrange the whole range of requirements needed for starting a business in one single window. We would like to know a little bit about yourself, your professional background and how did you start this company in 2006?
I am a third generation lawyer. I come from a family of lawyers. I worked at the two biggest law firms in Uganda till August 2006. I thought I had learned enough to prepare for something I co-owned with fresh ideas on service delivery. I started in Impala legal with a lot of blessing from my family particularly grandfather who was a lawyer himself. We started with a view of specializing in corporate and commercial practice areas. At that time, you saw there was a market niche.
The corporate commercial clientele has a very passionate approach to business. We see ourselves as a boutique law firm. We do not see ourselves as mass production outfit that seeks to service everyone at all levels, but rather in a niche services that we are really decent at. That is our competitive advantage. We try to serve a selected set of clients and endeavor to spoil or pamper them with an excellent service. We do banking, finance and capital markets. We also do energy, natural resources, infrastructure (construction), real estate and land and agriculture. We are retained by two of the biggest companies in the oil sector. So we can consider that Impala provide services in the most important areas of the economy. Are your clients international ones?
Easily, 90% of our business comes from international entities.And what was the reason they contacted Impala? How do they know about this firm?
Principally, our exposure and quality of work has been built up by our reputation. In addition to this, we have relations with leading global firms. We do have this kind of global relations. Then also following a competitive process, we were selected as a member for ALFA International, which is the oldest and largest network for law firms in the USA. Frankly, we have not gone out soliciting businesses those relations have been built through references and international networks. We have therefore grown organically by references. How important has it been for this firm the reference of Godfrey Lukongwa Binaisa, former Attorney General of Uganda and President of Uganda.
Godfrey Binaisa died a few years ago but before his demise not only support us in taking the decision to start out and bring invaluable experience, but his presence a Queens Counsel at the firm gave a lot credibility. Consequently, we have grown into now 13 members, which is, by Ugandan standards reasonably sizable. The largest firm in the country is about 20 people.Is it a family business?
We don’t look at it that way, but you could say that. We are open to new relations, as well having people internally growing into partnership. That means that we are very open to partnerships and have some and we continue to look for people of like-mind to join in. We were reading that you hire good-quality employees, the best minds of each university?
We try to always pick people who have had the right education, background and also exposure. We try to find the best minds of every area we work in but also grow the young talent we recruit. You mentioned before that Impala is member of ALFA international. Which other partnerships or alliances do you have?
We have developed and continue to develop relationships with a couple of the 20 top firms in the UK, Pinsent Masons, Clifford Chance, Clyde & Co, Slaughter and May, CharlesRussell and so on.Do you have close relations with the listed companies of the London Stock Exchange?
We seem to particularly enjoy that quite a bit. We see a lot of strength in these relationships for the broader global output on business.In order to provide services as a “boutique”, you need to specialize in fields. Do you have special partners in every sector?
We try to recruit the right people for the specific areas, with the right experience, and the right brains and attitude. Nevertheless, we also place a lot of effort in continuous education, exposure and learning. We spend a fair amount of resources in making sure that our team gets continuous training and exposure in leading firms but also the practice with the work we attract.What are those aspects that foreign clients ask the most while they are trying to set up a business or do an commercial operation in Uganda? What types of concerns do they have?
Investors want a very clear, honest and efficient process of the law and therefore expectations. Right from when they are registering the companies, they like to have a set timeframe, clear processes, and a clear outline of resources. That’s why you provide a single window for investors, which is something not yet provided by the government.
Absolutely; because of experience and relationships we have grown with various departments, we think that we understand very well how to hold these companies’ hands to smoothly navigate the processes they need to undertake. We have a very good understanding, and an established level of relationships that can deliver efficient results for clients. Clients want good, efficient, clear results.What things would you like to see changing in the Ugandan legal framework?
I think government could assemble some of the services under one unit, so people don’t have to go to many places. Many places means an increased timeframe to make a deliverable. If we have a centralized agency with everything you require for starting a business under one house; that would be helpful. Of course, when you come to us, we can deliver all that to you. You were mentioning before that big international firms are your clients. Could you mention some of them?
We are working with the World Bank on a variety of issues. We advised them on doing business in many sectors of the country. We are doing the World Bank’s headquarters in Uganda. We are presently representing two oil majors. We have represented the Aga Khan on a range of investment concerns. We have represented a host of some of the leading global companies too in construction, banking, agriculture and natural resources.How do you perceive this strategy of the government to showcase Uganda in this kind of investment forums?
Actually, I wish they had started this before! This is very important. Now that we are here, this should be encouraged. This is the way to go in global business.Four topics are going to be discussed in the Global Africa Investment Summit: critical infrastructure, agribusiness, power, and natural resources.
In agriculture, we are representing some of the largest companies in the country. One of them is the Mukwano Group, which has about 100.000 out growers. That is a 500 million dollar company.
As regards energy, natural resources and infrastructure, that is my area of specialty or bias in legal practice. Every law firm knows the organs, movements and pulse of a country, both from the work with their clients and by navigating in the legal framework. Can you point out some appealing investment opportunities that Uganda offers to the world?
The number one point is that there is room for growth in all the sectors that are going to be discussed within the Summit. Uganda’s comparative advantage, in my view, is in agriculture: you can literally throw beans out on the road, and they grow! Then, within natural resources (minerals) where am a member of the Ugandan Chamber of Mines and Petroleum. They recently concluded seismic data collection with the help of the World Bank. The potential of that is huge. Some weeks ago I was in Toronto trying to put together a private equity group to look for funding of natural resources. Uganda, as you may know, loosely speaking has a similar rock formation like Congo, South Sudan, and Tanzania. These countries developed vibrant mines, so I reckon that there is serious potential here if exploration companies can embark on finding the minerals!Mining is long-term investment, and you need investment.
I think the government is trying to set up incentives, like zero rating all equipment and all those thing that are imported for the sector. These are very good incentives which should encourage active exploration. They are also organizing their departments. The department of mines and the department of petroleum are very efficient and much more well organized now. I sincerely believe that the efficiency and incentives will go a long way in attracting investors.What makes Uganda different from other countries in the region?
First, the people of Uganda are genuinely wonderful and hospitable. I don’t know many places in the world where you can ask someone for directions on the road, and they grab your hand, drop where they are going, and first safely take you to your own destination. Second, we are the Pearl of Africa and that means our central geographical location gives access to many countries. It is a nice hub for many things where businesses have access to markets the DR Congo, Sudan, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania. That is a catchment area of about 200 million people! I would encourage anyone looking at this area to approach it from the perspective of accessing all those countries together.And why should an investor choose Impala?
Our biggest attraction is that we mix a very good understanding of the law and commercial pragmatism with a very efficient service that seeks to spoil our clients. Our goal is to pamper or spoil them as best we can.What would be the benefits of showcasing your institution in this summit? Will you attend the event?
I will seriously consider attending. The structure of this summit fits very much within the kind of things we do, and our approach to doing business. I would like you to send a message for our readers.
I invite everybody to come and experience the sights and sounds of Uganda. I have no doubt that when someone comes here, they will be able to see the abundance of opportunities in the country. You could pave the streets with gold with all the opportunities there are. If I may, we bring a lot of value as a one stop center for clients on most of their requirements.What would be your title for this interview?
Experience the Pearl of Africa. If you may, an Impala is an animal associated with Africa and we have a soft spot for pan African causes. This was a hill of impalas, a gracious and intelligent animal. If you are not analytical, you may look at impalas as weak animals, but they always outlive lions! That speaks very well about impalas.