With Africa increasingly being perceived as a key market for companies looking for growth opportunities, local professional services firms are building capacity, recruiting key personnel and expanding their footprints in order to enable them to service existing and potential clients moving into the continent.

The recent State of the Future report from the Millennium Project shows that by 2060, Africa's population will reach 2.7 billion, and its economically active population will triple.

According to Piet Faber, Chief Executive at ENS (Edward Nathan Sonnenbergs), these sorts of numbers are attracting global companies operating in a range of industries, from mining, retail, banking, manufacturing, and telecommunications, to Africa. "This in turn, is creating new opportunities for legal, accounting, auditing, consulting and marketing firms operating in South Africa and the rest of the continent," he says.

Faber says that in order to compete for business, many international and local professional services firms are aggressively targeting top talent from across the globe. He says ENS, however, has been fortunate in that lateral hires from international firms have chosen to join its ranks and this has further enhanced its position as a pan-African firm. The firm appointed 23 new executives this year alone. These hires have included the appointment of Ian Hayes, previously the National Head of Corporate and Commercial at DLA Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr. Hayes will co-lead the corporate commercial department with Chairman Michael Katz, and joint Heads of Corporate Commercial, Doron Joffe and Koos Pretorius.

According to Faber, it will also be crucial for professional services firms to have a presence in key African territories with top personnel who have an in-depth knowledge of local practices, market conditions and regulatory issues.

"For international firms, expanding into Africa is not simply a case of acquiring strategic business assets in the local market. They are looking for established service providers with local knowledge and international experience to guide them through the challenges of growing a footprint in Africa," he says.

"As a result, ENS has also set up an Africa department and recently announced the opening of ENS | Rwanda and ENS | Burundi and have plans to open across the African continent in due course."

According to Faber, the opportunities and potential for doing business in Africa is starting to provide local organisations with a more attractive proposition for attracting top talent. "The world's top professionals are waking up to the opportunities Africa presents for them. Firms that are best able to provide these opportunities to employees are most likely to attract the best talent and skills – and ultimately come out on top in the race for Africa," he says.

ENS was last week rated the 3rd BEST Employer in South Africa - behind international giants Microsoft and SAP in the medium-sized employer category. This makes ENS the only law firm in South Africa to be ranked amongst the Top 10 BEST Employers overall. "We are exceptionally proud of this rating which recognizes our efforts to provide the best opportunities and working environment for our people. It is accolades such as this that position us as the African law firm of choice for the top legal talent world-wide and enable us to make the high-profile hires that are necessary to grow our footprint in Africa," says Faber.

Originally published in Insurance Gateway,.September 2012

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