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Law and Crisis Management: Working with Lawyers in Business, Government, and Society to Manage the Challenges of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented disruptions to businesses, governments, and societies across Africa and the world. Solutions to the crisis will require innovative thinking, challenging businesses, governments, and societies to collaborate in novel ways. The law plays distinct roles in this process, whether through the development of new public-private partnerships or ensuring that the least advantaged are not left behind. 

Drawing on insights from leading lawyers across Africa, this webinar focuses on how the law connects businesses, governments, and societies. Understanding Africa through this lens provides a unique perspective on Africa’s short, medium, and long-term response and strategy. In a time of legal uncertainty, this webinar also explores some of the substantive questions facing legal practitioners, as well as the developmental and social challenges the pandemic presents for African societies.


The Honorable
Eric Holder

82nd Attorney General
of the United States

Eric Holder advises clients on complex investigations and litigation matters, including those that are international in scope and involve significant regulatory enforcement issues and substantial reputational concerns. Mr. Holder, who was a partner at Covington from 2001 to 2009, rejoined the firm after serving for six years as the 82nd Attorney General of the United States.

Before his service as Attorney General, Mr. Holder maintained a wide-ranging investigations and litigation practice at Covington. Among numerous significant engagements, he led the firm’s representation of a major multi-national agricultural company in related civil, criminal, and investigative matters; acted as counsel to a special investigative committee of the board of directors of a Fortune 50 technology company; successfully tried a complex discrimination lawsuit on behalf of a leading financial services company; and represented several life sciences companies in litigation and investigations.

Mr. Holder served as Attorney General from February 2009 to April 2015. As the third longest serving Attorney General in U.S. history and the first African American to hold that office, Mr. Holder is an internationally recognized leader across a broad range of regulatory enforcement, criminal justice, and national security issues. In 2014, Time magazine named Mr. Holder to its list of 100 Most Influential People, noting that he had “worked tirelessly to ensure equal justice.”

Including his tenure as Attorney General, Mr. Holder has served in government for more than thirty years, having been appointed to various positions requiring U.S. Senate confirmation by Presidents Obama, Clinton and Reagan.

David B. Wilkins

Lester Kissel Professor of Law, Vice Dean for Global Initiatives on the Legal Profession, and Faculty Director, Center on the Legal Profession, Harvard Law School

Professor Wilkins is the Lester Kissel Professor of Law, Vice Dean for Global Initiatives on the Legal Profession, and Faculty Director of the Center on the Legal Profession and the Center for Lawyers and the Professional Services Industry at Harvard Law School. He is also a Senior Research Fellow of the American Bar Foundation and a Fellow of the Harvard University Edmond J. Safra Foundation Center for Ethics.       

Professor Wilkins has written over 80 articles on the legal profession in leading scholarly journals and the popular press and is the co-author (along with his Harvard Law School colleague Andrew Kaufman) of one of the leading casebooks in the field.  His current scholarly projects include Globalization, Lawyers, and Emerging Economies (where he directs over 50 researchers studying the impact of globalization on the market for legal services in rapidly developing countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe); After the JD (a ten-year nationwide longitudinal study of lawyers’ careers); The Harvard Law School Career Study (examining, among other things, differences in the experiences of male and female graduates and the careers of lawyers who do not practice law); and The New Social Engineers (charting the historical development and current experiences of black lawyers in corporate law practice). 

Professor Wilkins teaches several courses on lawyers including The Legal Profession, Legal Education for the Twenty-First Century, and Challenges of a General Counsel. In 2007, he co-founded Harvard Law School’s Executive Education Program, where he teaches in several courses including Leadership in Law Firms and Leadership in Corporate Counsel. 

Professor Wilkins has given over 40 endowed lectures at universities around the world and is a frequent speaker at professional conferences and law firm and corporate retreats.  His recent academic honors include the 2012 Honorary Doctorate in Law from Stockholm University in Sweden, the 2012 Distinguished Visiting Mentor Award from Australia National University, the 2012 Genest Fellowship from Osgoode Hall Law School, the 2010 American Bar Foundation Scholar of the Year Award, the 2009 J. Clay Smith Award from Howard University School of Law, and the 2008 Order of the Coif Distinguished Visitor Fellowship.  In 2012, Professor Wilkins was elected as a Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Gerald Abila

Founder and Executive Director, BarefootLaw

Gerald Abila is the Founder and Executive Director of BarefootLaw. An Attorney, Legal Futurist and Consultant on Law and Technology

He strongly advocates for the adoption of technology by the legal profession, and has delivered a number of talks, including the United Nations and Ted X on various topics including the role of technology and innovation in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

He was named among the Top 100 Legal Consultants and Strategists in the world for 2016 by the Law Dragon, one of the leading legal publications in New York, USA for his use of internet and technology to transform the legal profession.

In addition to being an Echoing Green Fellow, he is a Draper Richards Kaplan Entrepreneur and recipient of a number of honors including Legal Rebel by the American Bar Association, Young Achiever awards as well as a Laureate of the African Development Prize by the King Baudouin Foundation.

Gerald, who graduated at the top of his class, holds a Bachelor of Laws, as well as a diploma in legal practice.

Dr. Myma Belo Osagie

Co-Founder, Udo Udoma Belo-Osagie

Dr. Myma Adwowa Belo-Osagie recently retired from her position as Senior Partner in the Nigerian law firm of Udo Udoma & Belo-Osagie (‘UUBO’) which she co-founded in 1985.  During her time at UUBO Dr. Belo-Osagie focused primarily on advising corporate clients doing business in the general corporate, oil and gas and telecommunications sectors of Nigeria.  The firm has grown from a 2 partner, 3 fee earner law firm to its current 15 partner 50 plus fee earner size a as one of the few Tier One law firms in Nigeria. 

A Ghanaian citizen, Dr. Belo-Osagie holds an LL.B (1975) from the University of Ghana, Legon, and an LL.M (1978) and SJD (1985) from Harvard Law School.  She was called to the Ghana Bar in 1977 after obtaining a BL at the Ghana Law School in that same year; and subsequently called to the New York Bar in 1983 and the Nigerian Bar in 1984.  Dr Belo-Osagie sits on a number of international and national corporate and philanthropic boards, and supports a number of educational sector and SME sector endeavours.  In 2018 she was elected an International Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Michel Brizoua-Bi

Partner, Bilé-Aka, Brizoua-Bi & Associés

Michel Brizoua-Bi is the partner in charge of the international projects department at the leading Ivorian law firm Bilé-Aka, Brizoua-Bi & Associés in Abidjan. He regularly advises financial institutions, investors and governments.

  • LLM (Harvard  Law School, USA) ;
  • Graduate of Toulouse Law Faculty, France ;
  • Chairman of the Governance Committee, AFRICAN FOOTBALL CONFEDERATION (CAF) ;
  • Chairman of the Board of STANBIC BANK OF CÔTE D’IVOIRE

Stephen Chege

Chief Corporate Affairs Officer, Safaricom

Stephen Chege is the Chief Corporate Affairs Officer at Safaricom, the leading communications company in Kenya and pioneer of M-PESA, the world’s most widely used mobile payments system.

With a deep background in Regulatory and Legal affairs, Stephen is responsible for the Corporate Affairs Division, which provides strategic support functions to Safaricom’s operations. These functions include the Regulatory and Public Policy, Legal and Secretarial Services; Corporate Responsibility (incorporating the Safaricom and M-PESA Foundations as well as Sustainability Reporting); Corporate Communications and International Roaming functions.

He has over 16 years’ experience in the telecommunications industry with focus on public policy, regulatory, and industry legislation from various organisations, including Vodafone Group UK. He first joined Safaricom in 2006 as In-House Counsel, rising over the years to hold the position of Senior Manager, Public Policy & Market Regulation until 2011 when he was appointed Head of Regulatory and Public Policy. In April 2015, he became the Director, Corporate Affairs, a position which has since been renamed Chief Corporate Affairs Officer.

An advocate of the High Court of Kenya, Stephen holds a Masters in Law (LL.M) in International Trade and Investment Law from the University of Nairobi and a Bachelor of Laws Degree (LL.B) from the same university. He is a Certified Public Secretary and a Trustee of the Safaricom Foundation.

Prof. Vincent O. Nmehielle, SJD

Secretary-General, African Development Bank Group Office of the Secretary-General and General Secretariat

Professor Nmehielle is an acclaimed legal scholar, with extensive experience and expertise in international law, corporate governance and management of complex governance issues that involves multiple stakeholders. He has 26 years of experience in corporate legal practice, university lecturing and scholarship in international law, and international civil service with a focus on international rule of law, policy, justice, governance and development in Africa.  

He holds a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degree from Rivers State University of Science and Technology, Nigeria and qualified as Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria. He holds advanced degrees in law, including a Master of Laws in International Law from the University of Notre Dame Law School, USA; and a Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from George Washington University, USA. He worked as a Managing Solicitor and Advocate prior to joining the academia, where he worked and rose to the level of full Professor of Law at the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa, and served as Head of the University of Witwatersrand Program on Law, Justice and Development in Africa.

Until his appointment, he was the Legal Counsel and Director for Legal Affairs of the African Union Commission, where he served as the chief Legal Advisor of the Policy Organs of the African Union, including the Assembly of Heads of States and Government, the Executive Council, among other functions. He brings extensive experience and diplomacy in servicing high-level governance structures, fostering institutional governance systems and building consensus among diverse constituencies.

Nmehielle brings extensive board experience and has served as a board member and chair of many international organizations. Currently, he is an Advisory Board Member with the Africa Law Institute, Ottawa, Canada. Previously he served as Chair of the Board, Human Rights Institute of South Africa.

Professor Nmehielle said of his appointment, “I am excited to join the dynamic senior leadership team being put together at the African Development Bank to help accelerate the transformation of the African continent. I look forward to being part of the team, to support the Banks’s institutional governance and accountability systems, working closely with the Board of Directors and the Management of the Bank.”

Prof. Ruth L. Okediji

Jeremiah Smith, Jr. Professor of Law, Harvard Law School, and Co-Director of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society

Ruth L. Okediji is the Jeremiah Smith Jr., Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and Co-Director of the Berkman Klein Center. A renowned scholar in international intellectual property (IP) law and a foremost authority on the role of intellectual property in social and economic development, Professor Okediji has advised inter-governmental organizations, regional economic communities, and national governments on a range of matters related to technology, innovation policy, and development. Her widely cited scholarship on IP and development has influenced government policies in sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America, and South America. Her ideas have helped shape national strategies for the implementation of the WTO’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement). She works closely with several United Nations agencies, research centers, and international organizations on the human development effects of international IP policy, including access to knowledge, access to essential medicines and issues related to indigenous innovation systems.

Professor Okediji was a member of the United States National Academies’ Board on Science, Technology and Policy Committee on the Impact of Copyright Policy on Innovation in the Digital Era. She served as the Chief Technical Expert and Lead Negotiator for the Delegation of Nigeria to the 2013 WIPO Diplomatic Conference to Conclude a Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works by Visually Impaired Persons and Persons with Print Disabilities (Marrakesh VIP Treaty). Okediji was appointed by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to the 2015 – 2016 High Level Panel on Access to Medicines.

Professor Okediji is a recipient of numerous awards for excellence in teaching, research and mentoring. She is an editor of the Journal of World Intellectual Property Law and an elected member of the American Law Institute. Her most recent book, Copyright Law in an Age of Limitations and Exceptions, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2017.

Professor Okediji is a graduate of the University of Jos and Harvard Law School.

Sandie Okoro

Senior Vice President and General Counsel, World Bank Group

Sandie Okoro is Senior Vice President and General Counsel for the World Bank Group, and Vice President for Compliance at the World Bank.

As the first British national and the first black woman to hold this role, Sandie is the principal advisor and spokesperson on all legal matters for the world’s leading development finance institution. She heads the Legal Vice Presidency Unit where international development legal experts provide legal services essential to World Bank activities and operations. Sandie also heads the Compliance Vice Presidency that is responsible for developing and overseeing the World Bank data privacy framework that is based on the World Bank Group Policy on Personal Data Privacy. The two Vice Presidencies are separate and distinct.

In addition to her official duties, Sandie is an ardent defender and champion for women empowerment, gender equality, and justice for all. She uses her voice and expertise to spark personal and community-based development and push the envelope in tackling gender-based inequalities, particularly among minority groups and women. She proactively engages in opportunities to spur change and move the needle in tackling issues such as gender-based violence, domestic violence, female genital mutilation, sexual harassment, child marriage, women’s access to justice, gender equality in the judiciary, discriminatory laws, and many more.

Prior to joining the World Bank, Sandie was General Counsel for HSBC Global Asset Management, Deputy General Counsel of HSBC Retail Banking and Wealth Management, and Global General Counsel at Barings.

Sandie is an Honorary Bencher of Middle Temple in the United Kingdom (2018) and was named one of the Upstanding 100 Leading Ethnic Minority Executives (2016), Top 20 Global General Counsel (2019) by the Financial Times and was recognized as Britain’s 5th most influential person of African and African Caribbean heritage by Powerlist (2018). She holds Honorary Doctorates in Law from City University London (2014), London Southbank University (2018), and her alma mater Birmingham University (2019).

Thandi Orleyn

Chairperson, Legal Resources Trust

Thandi is married with 3 adult children and 1 granddaughter. She is a Human Rights activist whose career of over 35 years spans the roles of attorney, mediator, arbitrator, facilitator, dispute resolution practitioner, public speaker, executive management and director of companies.

She holds a B Juris degree from Fort Hare University, B Proc and LLB degrees from UNISA and LLM degree from Wits. She is presently an admitted advocate, shareholder and executive director of Peotona Group Holdings, Trustee of various Trusts notably Chair of the De Beers Fund, Legal Resources Trust and Zenex Foundation and Director of a number of boards including Chair of BP Southern Africa.

Dr. Godfred Penn

General Counsel & Director, African Development Bank

Dr. Godfred Awa Eddy PENN is a lawyer by profession and works with the African Development Bank where he occupies the position of General Counsel since 1 June 2019 after serving as Acting General Counsel since January 2018. In his capacity as General Counsel, he provides legal advice and opinions on major institutional issues such as African Development Bank General Capital Increases, African Development Fund Replenishments, interpretations of the African Development Bank and African Development Fund Agreements and other legal issues pertinent to the proper governance of the African Development Bank Group. Godfred also advises the African Development Bank Group on a number of innovative financial sustainability issues that enable the African Development Bank, the African Development Fund and the Nigeria Trust Fund to work together with greater synergy in the economic and social development of the African continent.

Godfred earned his Doctor of Juridical Science (SJD) of Law Degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in Philadelphia, USA, after having studied in the Faculty of Laws and Economic Sciences of the University of Yaoundé in Cameroon up to the level of “Diplôme des Etudes Supérieur”.

Following graduation from the University of Pennsylvania Law School he taught law in the University of Yaoundé, while concurrently also practicing law as Local Counsel for ExxonMobil on the Chad Cameroon pipeline and other projects in Cameroon. Subsequently, he managed the Democracy and Governance Project Office at USAID Yaoundé. He later became counsel for the World Bank in Washington, DC, where he spent two years working on project finance in South East Asia, including China, Indonesia, Cambodia and Laos.

In 1997, he moved on to the African Development Bank where he has served in various capacities, including as Finance and Project Finance Counsel in the Legal Services Department, Advisor to the Vice President for Institutional Services, Acting General Counsel and currently as General Counsel.  Godfred is a Cameroonian national and a member of the Cameroonian Bar, New York State Bar, the American Bar Associations, as well as is fully bilingual in English and French.