Vance Center Continues African Legal Fellows 2021 Virtual Program

July 2021

Orrick and the Vance Center hosted the third installment of the Africa Legal Fellows bi-monthly webinar series to discuss topical issues in Africa. Entitled “Sovereign Debt Restructuring and Finance—Current Themes for Africa”, the event had over 60 participants, including African Legal Fellows Program alumni, lawyers, investors, and African government officials.

New York City Bar Association Vice President, Orrick Partner and Vance Center Africa Sub-Committee member Lorraine McGowen moderated the event, exploring the challenges arising from the COVID-19 pandemic and the legal and policy tools used in response, including international initiatives like the G-20 Debt Suspension Initiative (DSSI) and the “Common Framework.” The discussion also explored opportunities to leverage private sources of financing needed to meet the continent’s development objectives through innovative means of blended finance and Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) finance.

Joba Akinola, alumnus of the African Legal Fellows Program and Senior Associate at Olaniwu Ajayi, and Thomas Laryea, Counsel at Orrick, presented on sovereign debt restructuring in Africa. They agreed that this is a critical time for African governments to take advantage of relatively low-interest rates to refinance debt and mitigate the impact of COVID-19. They concluded that short-term exigencies need to be balanced against long-term development finance goals, and debt transparency is critical to efficient financing and effective debt restructuring. Also, they advised governments to preserve public funds for priority infrastructure projects and seek appropriate legal advice and analysis for debt management to avoid problems for themselves and their creditors.

The Vance Center launched the Africa Legal Fellows bi-monthly webinar series in February 2021, calling on program alumnae/i to describe their experiences, including how the program furthered their careers, and, in that context, discuss topical issues in Africa. Restrictions posed by the Covid-19 pandemic and related U.S. visa regulations constrained the Vance Center from selecting participants in 2020-21. However, one fellow from Nigeria was able to work at King  & Spalding.