Sierra Leone’s Inaugural Commercial Law Summit: Building a foundation for responsible investment in


Earlier this year, Sierra Leone held its first ever Commercial Law Summit, publicly recognising the central role of the rule of law in driving responsible inward investment and economic prosperity. The Summit was organised by global law firm Herbert Smith Freehills in collaboration with Standard Chartered Bank, the UK Sierra Leone Pro Bono Network and the UK and Sierra Leonean governments, with support from ROLE UK and UKAid.

The Summit brought together leaders from the Sierra Leonean and English judiciaries, the Sierra Leonean government, the diplomatic and development communities, the business sector (local and foreign), and the legal profession for one day to formulate practical reform proposals to improve the ease of doing business in the country.

Concrete recommendations were put forward in key areas, including: arbitration, anti-corruption and bribery, public- private partnerships, and reform of the court process.

During his keynote speech, Sierra Leone’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara announced that a raft of legislative and practical changes are on the way for the country - a move which he hopes will signal to the world that “Sierra Leone is open for business”.

In particular, the Attorney General announced that he was committed to reforming Sierra Leone’s arbitration law, noting that the bill was “ready to submit to Cabinet”. The Attorney General noted that the Sierra Leone Law Reform Commission and the Attorney General’s Office had already developed the Bill with lawyers from Herbert Smith Freehills. The new legislation will pave the way for accession to the New York Convention.

The Attorney General also touched on the need for more robust anti-corruption policies in Sierra Leone, to help reinforce the country’s reputation as a stable democracy and the need for the justice system to work for everyone in Sierra Leone.

Additional speakers included Sierra Leone’s Chief Justice Abdulai Hamid Charm, the Judge in Charge of the UK Commercial Court Mr Justice William Blair and former UK Lord Chancellor and first Secretary of State for Justice, Lord Falconer.

During his keynote speech, Sierra Leone’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara announced that a raft of legislative and practical changes are on the way for the country - a move which he hopes will signal to the world that “Sierra Leone is open for business”.

Lord Falconer commented that “this was a focused, well-attended conference which produced fourteen achievable recommendations in significant areas, such as commercial law, arbitration and anti-corruption. If there is to be change, it will start with events like the Summit, which created a unique environment in which to focus on the issues which can make Sierra Leone ready for investment.”

Herbert Smith Freehills and Standard Chartered Bank were proud to co-launch the second edition of Sierra Leone: An Investor’s Guide at a reception directly after the Summit. The guide, which has featured in previous editions of Insight Magazine, aims to improve investor confidence in Sierra Leone by presenting an independent, private sector perspective on the country’s investment landscape. It is now available online in the form of a mobile-responsive microsite, increasing ease of access for those who are interested in deploying capital in West Africa.

The Investor Guide and the Commercial Law Summit form part of a long-standing partnership between Herbert Smith Freehills and the Government of Sierra Leone, “Fair Deal Sierra Leone”. For more than seven years now, the firm has provided the Government with legal assistance on a pro bono basis to help build its capacity to manage inward investment. The firm works across a range of government departments and bodies and coordinates with development partners, including DFID, UNDP, the World Bank, and the Africa Governance Initiative. Since the firm’s involvement supporting Government, more than 200 people across the firm have delivered over £3.5 million worth of support.

Rebecca Perlman is a lawyer at leading global law firm Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF). In 2014, Rebecca was seconded to the Office of the President of Sierra Leone through HSF’s award- winning Fair Deal Sierra Leone pro bono programme.


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