I was fortunate to have the opportunity to join a New Perimeter team delivering a week-long course on Special Economic Zones at the impressive University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa, in September 2016. The course was aimed at a group of talented students from many different parts of Africa-- namely Ghana, South Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Nigeria and South Africa.
The DLA Piper training team was truly international: Martin Schaefermeier, an expert in international trade who works in Washington, DC (and is originally from Germany); Mike Wakefield, Head of Knowledge Management and Pro Bono Counsel in Dubai (and is originally from the UK); and myself, a Spaniard who specializes in cross border M&A transactions with a particular focus on Latin America. So an important part of the world and of DLA Piper's footprint was represented in Cape Town.
This course is successful because of its practical approach, and in particular the remarkable experience with special economic zones, in the field, of my fellow trainers, Martin and Mike. The best part of the course, in my opinion, was the assignment where students had to use the knowledge they acquired during the first three days of the course to design and simulate a successful Special Economic Zone in a particular African country (one from which none of the students hailed). The circumstances of the countries assigned were very complicated, but the students were able to do an exhaustive analysis of the situation and to deliver presentations to us on the final day of the course with interesting and creative proposed measures.
There was also time to get to know the students during the program and every day at lunch time.
We had some heated discussions in class about current issues, including higher education and other policies that the students were interested in. We learned a lot about current events at the University and the students’ backgrounds.
The day the assignment was delivered to the class, the New Perimeter team had some time to spend together and get know each other better. I took Martin to climb Lion's Head Mountain. My statement that it was a short and easy walk proved to be inaccurate—confirmed when I saw Martin's face as he confronted a series of steel chains and stairs attached to the wall of the mountain. Martin's doubts were easily killed by invoking his German-American pride!
Having participated in this New Perimeter project and the UNICEF global challenge in Ethiopia in October 2015, I am convinced that this was a fantastic opportunity for me to share ideas and listen to the opinion and concerns of students across Africa, as well as to test my teaching skills with a completely different audience. It is really an honour to work for an international law firm with such a significant global pro bono initiative like New Perimeter. I am just looking forward to joining the next project.