African startups who run afoul of regulators owing to non-compliance sometimes endure severe repercussions, some of which make their company inoperable or inoperative in particular marketplaces, as some scale-ups did last year.
In Africa’s startup scene, non-compliance problems are common and frequently result from inadequate foundational training. After establishing the legal technology business Lawyers Hub in Kenya six years ago, Linda Bonyo became aware of this need.
She saw that new businesses have trouble setting up shop within the confines of the law.
Her observation inspired her to create a legal and technology accelerator program that assists companies with a variety of needs, including establishing their operations legally, developing transparent corporate governance, getting ready to seek capital, and maintaining compliance with applicable laws and regulations.
Startup founders are guided by Lawyers Hub through a selected free program that is provided in collaboration with organizations like development agencies and is supplemented by optional one-on-one sessions with its lawyers.
The 12-week program, which is now in its third year, focuses on seed stage firms that Bonyo claims lack access and funding.
“The founders are trained on financials, taxation laws, intellectual property, what they require to prepare for a funding round, and what they need to scale beyond their borders,” said Bonyo.
He added that founders are also guided on co-founder relations, managing conflicts, and company closures – when things do not go as planned.
The fact that this year’s cohort includes 200 entrepreneurs from all over the continent suggests that there is a need for the services Lawyers Hub is providing.
After receiving a cancer diagnosis and spending six months in an Indian hospital, Bonyo is all too aware of the value of structures in a company. However, the impact of her hospitalization on the continuation of her firm was minimal.
“Lawyers Hub was able to continue operations, and we were able to host the festival last year because the team carried on with the business because we had a structure that allowed continuity in my absence,” claimed Bonyo.
“Structure is crucial because it aids founders in defining the roles of each member and in helping them to distance themselves from the firm (because they are only a small part of it). Startups can also decentralize management and give other people a voice in the company, according to Bonyo.
Prior to the introduction of Lawyers Hub’s accelerator program, the start-up was conducting a fellowship program to upskill traditional lawyers in order to increase Africa’s talent pool for digital policy, which is desperately required right now as policymakers struggle with problems brought on by developing technology.
With 508 applications submitted this year from 24 African nations, the fellowship continues to draw elite talent. The number of people participating in the six-month paid program has increased to 23, up from 15 last year.
Additionally, they organize the Law Tech Festival every year, where experts, decision-makers, and innovators gather for regional discussions on a range of topics, including artificial intelligence (AI) and intra-African commerce, which was the focus of this year’s summit, which was held earlier this week.
A number of digital regulations, notably Kenya’s Data Protection Act, have been developed thanks in large part to Bonyo and Lawyers Hub, which has also provided advice to several African governments, including Somalia on digital identification and Nigeria on AI policy.
She was recently nominated to the World Economic Forum’s Global Council on the Future of Technology Policy to address a variety of issues, including regulation and the use of technologies to address the urgent needs of the people while scaling them responsibly. Her expertise in digital law and data governance has not gone unnoticed in this regard.
She also provides advice on data governance and digital identification to the UN Economic Commission for Africa, and she has previously collaborated extensively with a number of organizations, including the Africa Union, on a policy framework for data and AI.