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Interview with first African president of the IBA

Sternford Moyo, the Chairman and Senior Partner of Scanlen and Holderness takes office as the International Bar Association (IBA) President.

He will serve as President of International Bar Association for a two year term up to 31 December 2022. He is the first president of African descent in the organisation’s 74 years of existence. This accomplishment is well deserved and is a just recognition of his illustrious practice of law.

Mr Moyo has held numerous senior IBA roles, including and his professional career has seen him hold a variety of leadership positions, including having been a bar leader in Zimbabwe and in Southern Africa, and corporate leader in mining, manufacturing, financial services and leadership development. Mr Moyo specialises in mining, corporate and commercial law.

Mr Moyo has held numerous senior IBA roles, including: Council Member, Management Board Member, Advisory Board Member and Chair of the African Regional Forum, Deputy Secretary-General for Southern Africa, Co-Chair of the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), Trustee of IBA-established entities, such as the Southern Africa Litigation Centre and eyeWitness to Atrocities, and member of the Task Force on Illicit Financial Flows, Poverty and Human Rights.

LEX Africa Chairperson, Pieter Steyn interviewed Mr Moyo on his new role and he gives insight to some of his plans as IBA President.

Briefly tell us about the IBA and its activities

The IBA is the premier lawyers’ association in the world. It is the largest lawyers association in the world and prides itself as the global voice of the legal profession. It was established 74 years ago to create and foster relationships and exchanges among lawyers, law societies and bar associations, to work on capacity building for bar associations, to promote the study of jurisprudence, observance of the rule of law, human rights and an effective administration of justice, to promote uniformity and harmonisation in the resolution of difficult legal problems and to work with international juridical organisations.

What will your priorities be as IBA President?

My priorities as IBA President will be to promote positive relationships and exchanges among lawyers, bar associations and law societies, to promote observance of the rule of law which has been seriously challenged by national governments’ inability to observe proportionality when dealing with emergencies such as the health emergency that we face, to work toward elimination of discrimination and inequality in the practice of law and the administration of justice, to produce guidelines to ensure a balance between protection of investments and the developmental interests of the communities where the investments take place, to produce guidelines on cyber security and to deepen the use of digital resources to ensure that conferences and knowledge generated by the association are made easily accessible to lawyers in the developing world and those at entry level of the legal profession without having to incur huge travelling and accommodation costs which they cannot afford.

What are the key challenges facing the legal profession in Africa and what role does (or can) the IBA play in helping to deal with them?

Key challenges facing the legal profession in Africa include failure to observe the rule of law in many of the African countries, ineffective and/or poorly implemented anti-corruption regimes, lack of resources and the slow pace of digitalisation of justice delivery and practice of law in general together with shortage of skills. The IBA, as I mentioned earlier, will make the knowledge it generates easily accessible to African lawyers through a vigorous digitalisation programme, will seek to capacitate law societies and bar associations to respond effectively to challenges such as failure to observe the rule of law and will work on guidelines to ensure adequate protection of investments and the developmental interests of African communities.

Your firm (and you personally) have been part of the LEX Africa Alliance since it was formed in 1993. How important are Pan-African legal alliances, networks and relationships for the African legal profession?

African legal networks ensure that clients seeking legal services across Africa receive a branded service from independent, professional, competent African firms in each of the African jurisdictions. They ensure that clients are serviced by professionals with a shared commitment to delivering value for money. They ensure that clients benefit from firms with local knowledge, experience and commitment to world standards of service delivery.

Do you see the AfCFTA as a “game changer” for the African continent and the legal profession in particular?

AfCFTA has potential to become a game changer. The African market, with 1.3 billion people, large tracks of fertile agricultural land, a huge mineral endowment and a young population is the world’s growth zone of the coming years. Fragmented markets will make it difficult to maximise this potential. A single trading zone can only make Africa stronger economically. This will have huge benefits to service providers such as members of the legal profession. There is likely to be an increase in cross border commercial activity and transactions. However, a considerable amount of work will need to be done to make effective implementation of the treaty a reality.

As the first ever IBA President from Africa, what is your advice to African lawyers especially young lawyers and law students?

It is vitally important for African lawyers to enter international dialogue on contemporary legal issues, keep themselves abreast with developments in law and legal practice and recognise that the practice of law, in common with any service business depends, to a large extent, on relationships. Networking with lawyers from other parts of the world is one of the many ways in which such relationships can be promoted. Cross border relationships are particularly important in a world in which the practice of commercial law is becoming increasingly transnational and global.

What is your view on the state of the rule of law and good governance on the continent?

Failure to observe the rule of law and good governance, as I indicated earlier, is one of the major obstacles to Africa’s growth and development. There are too many autocratic regimes, state capture and corrupt activities.

We wish Sternford Moyo all the best in his new role. Congratulations, you have made Africa proud!


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