For one week in May 2017, I was fortunate to step away from my role as a projects lawyer in DLA Piper’s Finance and Projects team in Brisbane, Australia and take on the role of lecturer at the University of Pretoria in Pretoria, South Africa.
Along with my colleagues Timothy Lohse (East Palo Alto), Enrique Chamorro (Madrid), and Grzegorz Godlewski (Warsaw), I spent the week sharing my knowledge and experience from advising governments and investors on special economic zones with students from 15 different African countries as part of the Masters Course on International Trade and Investment Law in Africa.
Many of the students started the week with an awareness of special economic zones, particularly given that they are a key policy tool being used in many African countries to stimulate foreign direct investment and economic development, but with no detailed knowledge on what a special economic zone is or how a government might go about implementing one.
We spent the week giving the students many practical, successful and unsuccessful, examples of how special economic zones have been implemented around the world and sharing current international best practice. We also learned from the students about the unique experiences of many of their home countries in implementing special economic zones. There were some lively and enlightening discussions amongst the group on human rights, regional trade agreements and the role of the government and private sector in the development and operation of special economic zones.
At the end of the week, the DLA Piper team sat as a panel and listened to some very convincing and innovative pitches by the students for the establishment of special economic zones in various African countries, including for enticing foreign investment into tourism, processing of agricultural products and financial services.
There were many highlights from the week, notably:
Meeting the extraordinary students with varying backgrounds and interests, in particular their willingness to share insights, ask questions and the passion of many to take lessons learned as part of the Masters course and seek to contribute to the further development of their home countries.
Our project partner (from the Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, at University of Pretoria) kindly organised an afternoon for us at the Lion and Rhino Park in Pretoria where we were able to see many African animals and get up close with a cheetah and six-week old lion cubs.
Meeting Tim, Enrique and Grzegorz, each of whom I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with and learned a lot from over the course of the week (including that Polish rap music exists!).
I am very grateful to DLA Piper, New Perimeter and our project partner for the experience and opportunity to be involved in such an amazing program.