LEAD­ERS

The Africa Report - - CONTENTS -

Nanaama Botch­wayDowuona, Founder, N. Dowuona & Com­pany, Ghana

“We don’t make a lot of noise!”

In a coun­try known for its lawyers, Botch­way-dowuona has carved out a niche at the very top with her ex­per­tise ad­vis­ing on prop­erty and con­struc­tion deals

Less than seven years af­ter launch­ing her com­pany in Ghana, Nanaama Botch­wayDowuona has earned her stripes as a lead­ing lawyer. Ear­lier this year, her law firm N. Dowuona & Com­pany was recog­nised by Uk-based The Le­gal 500 – the world’s largest le­gal re­fer­ral guide – as a top-tier law firm in Europe, the Mid­dle East and Africa (EMEA) in the prac­tice ar­eas of com­mer­cial, cor­po­rate, merg­ers and ac­qui­si­tions (M&A) and in­fra­struc­ture projects. Such a re­mark­able feat would of­ten come with huge in­vest­ments in ad­ver­tise­ment and marketing, but Botch­way-dowuona’s qui­eter ap­proach to build­ing busi­ness seems to have paid off : “I have been work­ing very hard. But we don’t make a lot of noise!” For some in the di­as­pora, the de­sire to re­turn home can be held back by deep fears and ques­tions about how they will cope. But Botch­way-dowuona al­ways knew that her dream to re­con­nect with Ghana was not a mat­ter of ‘if ’ but ‘when’. “I left Ghana when I was seven and I’ve al­ways wanted to come back. I def­i­nitely don’t ques­tion [my iden­tity]. There’s no ques­tion I’m Ghana­ian, I speak Ga [a lo­cal di­alect] and I was raised in a Ghana­ian way,” she says. Back in 1992, when she was study­ing for her un­der­grad­u­ate de­gree at Prince­ton, she wrote her the­sis on how to use the Grameen lend­ing model for mi­cro­fi­nance, to pro­vide small loans to al­le­vi­ate poverty in Ghana. “I’ve al­ways been Ghanafo­cused and I’ve al­ways wanted to ei­ther move back to Ghana or do some­thing with Ghana,” she adds. So when her then part­ner de­cided to move back in 2002, she jumped at the chance even with­out hav­ing a clear plan or strat­egy. “I didn’t come back with the idea that I’m nec­es­sar­ily go­ing to prac­tise law; I came back and I had a very open mind,” she ex­plained. “I thought, I’m go­ing to come, look at what’s on the ground. I know I’m not go­ing to find M&A jobs and the type of work I was do­ing in New York, so I’ll just re­lax and see what’s pos­si­ble.”

LAUNCH­ING A STARTUP

With a keen in­ter­est in art and de­sign, she opted to start a busi­ness sup­ply­ing lo­cally made prod­ucts to shops in Amer­ica. Un­for­tu­nately the en­tre­pre­neur­ial ven­ture never took off. “For a va­ri­ety of rea­sons that wasn’t fea­si­ble, (such as) huge sup­ply chain is­sues,” she ex­plains.

She re­turned to the cor­po­rate world in 2007 work­ing for a top pan-african pri­vate eq­uity firm, King­dom Ze­phyr, which she says was a won­der­ful op­por­tu­nity to learn more about Africa and to dis­cover dif­fer­ent in­dus­tries and sec­tors. Dur­ing her time there, she ad­vised the fund man­ager on var­i­ous trans­ac­tional mat­ters in­volv­ing the $120m and $490m Pan-african Investment Partners I and II funds re­spec­tively. Sh e ’s mo s t pr o u d o f he r work ad­vis­ing King­dom Ho­tel In­vest­ments on a $100m devel­op­ment project in Ghana dur­ing her stint as a le­gal con­sul­tant. “I ad­vised them when they were ne­go­ti­at­ing the deal with the govern­ment to ac­quire the prop­erty, to ac­quire the in­ter­est in the prop­erty, I ad­vised them through­out the devel­op­ment, per­mit­ting, con­struc­tion, […]. I lit­er­ally worked on every­thing from the be­gin­ning of the Ghana ad­ven­ture to the end when they sold the busi­ness,” says Botch­wayDowuona, who is a mem­ber of the In­ter­na­tional Bar As­so­ci­a­tion. Af­ter sev­eral chal­leng­ing ex­pe­ri­ences that in­cluded a per­sonal fam­ily tragedy, she at­tempted an­other dive into en­trepreneur­ship in 2011, this time do­ing some­thing she truly en­joyed. “I de­cided to come back to my first love which is the law, and this time to try and build some­thing as op­posed to be­ing a full prac­ti­tioner or a con­sul­tant,” she says. This was the birth of N. Dowuona & Com­pany. De­spite the set­backs and dis­ap­point­ments, she says the jour­ney has been worth­while: “I haven’t looked back. […] It’s been dif­fi­cult, def­i­nitely. I mean from the be­gin­ning you’re com­pen­sated a lot less than you are mak­ing as a se­nior as­so­ciate in New York, but I haven’t traded my qual­ity of work, and I feel priv­i­leged to have had great op­por­tu­ni­ties.” In 2016, she de­liv­ered a com­pelling Ted-style talk ex­pos­ing some of the ills of Ghana­ian so­ci­ety. She urged each ci­ti­zen to com­mit to change and take per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­ity in­stead of be­ing quick to pass the buck. She ad­vises that “be­fore we talk about rev­o­lu­tion at the coun­try level, let’s think about rev­o­lu­tion­is­ing our own at­ti­tude to­wards com­pli­ance”. As the founder of the only wo­man-owned firm in Ghana to have made The Le­gal 500 EMEA 2017 guide, Botch­way-dowuona cred­its her strong de­ter­mi­na­tion and over­rid­ing sense of op­ti­mism for her suc­cess. She ac­knowl­edges that sex­ism re­mains an is­sue but she’s cho­sen in­stead to fo­cus on mak­ing sure that her clients are get­ting their money’s worth. “It’s not an easy en­vi­ron­ment, but we work our fin­gers to the bone to de­liver,” she says.

BIG TRANS­AC­TIONS

And they are not work­ing with small fry. In 2013, her team ad­vised lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional com­pa­nies on var­i­ous trans­ac­tions in­clud­ing the ac­qui­si­tion of Fan Milk In­ter­na­tional by French dair y pro­ducer Danone from pri­vate eq­uity group Abraaj, and in 2016, the $100m sale of Moven­pick Am­bas­sador Ho­tel to a Mau­ri­tius­based investment fund man­aged by Quan­tum Global In­vest­ments Africa Management. This year they’ve also ad­vised on the de­but $600m bond is­sue by lead­ing telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions in­fra­struc­ture com­pany He­lios Tow­ers Africa. With the boom­ing real es­tate mar­ket in Ghana, and her ex­ten­sive ex­pe­ri­ence ad­vis­ing on prop­erty and con­struc­tion deals, busi­ness prospects look promis­ing. When asked what she would say to that young up­com­ing lawyer who looks up to her as a role model, she of­fers some can­did ad­vice based on her own per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence: “I had my first child when I was in law school and ev­ery­body was ter­ri­fied that I was go­ing to drop out and not con­tinue with my ca­reer. I [even­tu­ally] had four chil­dren and I don’t think it held me back. So you can do any­thing if you put your mind to it.” Oheneba Ama Nti Osei

“It’s not an easy en­vi­ron­ment, but we work our fin­gers to the bone to de­liver”

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