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Rita Correia & Ana Pinelas Pinto: "Investment in Africa is diversifying"
The two Miranda & Associados partners tell us about a diversification of investment in Africa, particularly in the renewable energy, infrastructure, public works and agriculture.
Ana Pinelas Pinto and Rita Correia, partners at Miranda
Tell us about the firm’s experience in Africa.
Working with and towards the development of activity in the African continent is part of our DNA. The starting point of Miranda’s activity, more than 30 years ago, was in Angola, in particular working very closely with the oil industry and subsequently more broadly with the energy sector. Over the course of that time our activity has evolved to meet the needs of our clients as they expanded their operations to other areas of the continent, first in Mozambique, and then in other Lusophone Africa jurisdictions (Cape-Verde, Guinea Bissau and Sao Tome and Principe). Subsequently they expanded to Equatorial Guinea, as well as Francophone Africa countries (Gabon, Republic of the Congo, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ivory Coast and Senegal).
The development of our activity in other countries has enabled us to draw on the significant experience we have amassed over the years in each of the jurisdictions in which we operate. We have expanded into other countries by incorporating the local knowledge shared by our local partners. These are specialized lawyers from Miranda Alliance Firms who are permanently on the ground, understanding the practices, traditions and challenges faced locally by our clients and working with us to develop solutions.
Our expansion from the energy sector to other industries has followed the same key principles as our expansion from Angola to other jurisdictions in that it has evolved over the course of 30 years to meet the needs of our service users. As a result, Miranda has grown and has been, for many years now, a full-service law firm with clients in a myriad of industries such as mining, telecommunications, banking and financial services, civil aviation, infrastructure, construction and public works, to name a few. Our services span many areas of the law. from corporate to labor, from regulatory to tax, and from litigation to real estate.
In which sectors in Africa are we seeing the most activity?
We are currently witnessing a diversification of investment in Africa, not only in renewable energy, but also infrastructure, public works, agriculture and sustainable business – usually with recourse to international financing. Our clients, which include multinational companies, medium-sized/small businesses, individuals and multilateral entities/international law-firms have relied on our legal advice as they expand their operations to other sectors of activity and seek to understand the sustainability of their investment in the context of local laws. We pride ourselves on being involved in projects with an unquestionable impact on the economic and social development of the countries in which we operate. Our vast expertise as an international network of law firms has been sought both in the context of the structuring of local projects and the financing of such schemes.
“Miranda has been working with Francophone African countries for more than ten years and continues to expand to other jurisdictions”
Portugal functions as a hub for investors in Lusophone Africa, with tax treaties playing a role in relation to the structuring of international investments.
That is indeed the case. Portugal currently has tax treaties in place with all countries covered by our network in Lusophone Africa, that is Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, Sao Tomé and Principe. Our hub in Lisbon is therefore of the utmost strategic importance as it acts as a facilitator and coordinator of our international practice. We are able to operate as a gateway to these countries due to the long-standing cultural relationships between Lusophone African countries. This has not only provided a better vantage-point when structuring the activities of clients operating in these countries, but has also paved the way for the consolidation of our practice. For example, over the course of the last year, we have supported several of our clients with regard to the implementation of a VAT Code in Angola, which is modelled on the European system. Because of our presence in Portugal and the know-how we have acquired concerning the challenges posed by VAT systems in other African countries, our clients made use of our services at all stages of the implementation, from discussions with authorities to in-house training, from advice on operations to registering the client, as well as advising on the submission of VAT returns. This has always been the basis for the continuous requests for assistance in drafting new tax laws and legal frameworks in these countries.
What is Miranda’s involvement in Francophone Africa?
Miranda has been working with Francophone African countries for more than ten years and continues to expand to other jurisdictions. Very recently, for example, our expansion to Senegal was at the request of one of our clients. While our experience Francophone Africa is relatively new compared to Lusophone African countries, the diversity and complexity of the projects we are involved in is similar in both Lusophone and Francophone African countries. To give you an idea, in the case of our international tax practice, over the past year we have been involved in preparing ‘country-entry’ reports in which we detail local tax systems for agricultural/forestry projects, and negotiate and draft tax clauses in government contracts, while analyzing the tax implications of cross-border financing operations, and structuring the operations in the country. We have also been called upon to provide advice on customs matters and represent clients both before tax authorities and local courts in tax litigation. We have also advised on providing advice on the unilateral revocation of tax benefits by the government.
The fact that many of these countries are part of regional organizations such as the OHADA (Organization for the Harmonization of Business Law) and the UEMOA (West African Economic and Monetary Union) or CEMAC (Economic Community of Central African States) – as well as being subject to harmonized legislation in areas such as corporate income tax, VAT and customs – has meant we have been asked to provide significant tax and customs advice particularly in relation to transactions between UEMOA and CEMAC countries. In addition, we have advised on transactions in and out of the UEMOA and CEMAC. In several of these countries, and particularly in the context of tax & customs, Miranda has provided day-to-day advice on the import/export of goods. We have also advised on consultation and communication with local tax and customs authorities, and the preparation of legal opinions related to the applicable tax and customs regulatory framework, notably the existing procedures, the industry-specific tax and customs exemptions, and audits.
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