GBR meets with Lubumbashi law firm J&R Cabinet d’avocats.
Can you please provide us with an overview of the firm’s history here in Lubumbashi?
The company’s name is J&R, which stands for our two founding partners, John and Raymond. We are both bar-certified lawyers of Lubumbashi, and we started practicing in 1990 after studying in the University of Lubumbashi as trainees in law firms. I personally began in the law firm of the master Mbuyou, who is today the advisor to the head of state. Raymond was a trainee in the law firm of Ntoto that was at that time president of the bar. In 1995, after our training, we decided to create our own law firm, beginning with a team of four people working in all sectors.
What is the importance of the mining industry to your practice as clients?
In general, in DRC there is no focus on specialization and anybody can work in any domain. As we work in all sectors, many different clients come to consult us, and since 2006, with the modification of the mining code in 2002, we started to see a positive impact on our practice as many new investors started to enter into the country. Some of these investors consulted us, and we had our first mining clients Chemaf and Kawel (KCC) that started our interest in the mining sector specifically. At the start, these clients consulted us for questions around the constitution of the company, but later they started to ask advice in terms of evaluating the tax system, such as how to settle or environment regulations they need to respect, as well as some administrative procedures and judicial litigation.
What areas has the firm identified as potential opportunities for the DRC legal system to improve?
There are some services that we want to offer, but the law does not allow for it. For example, accompanying companies to stock exchange is a service that is done today, but not in DRC so they do not use Congolese lawyers because they do not have enough experience in this domain. Some exchanges such as international sales can be done, but the impact does not reach DRC because these stocks are sold elsewhere and the country does not benefit despite the fact that these funds are from DRC.
Has the decline and subsequent rise of the copper price over the past few years impacted your business in the mining industry?
For the moment not really, but we will probably feel the effects in coming months. The state of the mining sector oscillates with the political situation here in DRC; if the politics are stabilized, the investors will come to invest more, and the reverse is also true.
Looking at some international companies, what are the key legal challenges international companies face operating in DRC?
The law in our country is not fully developed and international companies find significant difficulties in adapting to our systems. They want to do some things but the law does allow for it, or often there is delay in the adoption of some laws that creates a lot of frustration for international clients. The low level of training in law among the DRC politicians is likely the cause, and the parliament needs to better follow mining activities to adapt to the needs of international companies.
What are the most significant legal implications of the split up of the provinces?
Some companies had their social HQ in Lubumbashi as it was the chief city of Katanga and an exploration HQ in other cities such as Kolwezi. Now that these other cities have became part of different provinces, most organizations transferred their social HQ. It has a fiscal impact as the IRS is paid from the social HQ, so the taxes that were collected here will now be diverted into other regions.
Looking towards the future, what is the firm’s vision for itself?
We are targeting to grow our visibility and influence in the country. We believe establishing ourselves in Kinshasa and in the east where we have some clients in the mining sector will be hugely beneficial. We also wish to develop our presence in other sectors and partnerships at the international level. We already have some relationships with law firms in Paris and London, and we believe that in the following years, if the law allows it, we can create consortium to develop our knowledge and expand our clientele internationally.