On Wednesday, Baker & McKenzie announced the opening of an office in Casablanca, Morocco. This third office of Baker & McKenzie in Africa, following offices in Cairo and Johannesburg is seen as part of the firm’s strategy to secure energy and natural resource business for its clients.
The new office would be manned by four corporate lawyers who left Paris-based law firm August & Debousy to join Baker. Kamal Nasrollah, a partner who had opened August & Debousy’s Casablanca office in 2007, and who has the experience of working in Paris, New York and London for Sullivan & Cromwell would be heading the staff.
Morocco is favored by firms and companies like Baker & McKenzie for its relatively greater political stability in contrast to its neighbors like Libya, Tunisia, Mauritania, and Algeria. Baker & McKenzie Chairman Eduardo Leite said the base at Casablanca would serve as a hub for access to the resource-rich area of northwest Africa. Of recent, Morocco has also become popular as a destination for investment in infrastructure and telecommunication projects.
Last year, Chinalco (Aluminum Corporation of China), which is a major client of Baker & McKenzie was advised by the firm to form a$1.35 billion joint venture in the area with Rio Tinto, a UK-based mining group. The venture would be developing the Simandou iron ore mine in Guinea.
China is keen on extending its interests in Africa and the Chinese government has become a major player in African projects in exchange for investment incentives offered by local governments. Usually such incentives include access to natural resources.
The stature of Casablanca has been rising in the legal world for some time and last year three other major firms, Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, and Norton Rose had opened their offices in the city. According to industry experts, the city can see an influx of international law firms following the continuous development of the Maghreb region.