BusinessDay

“Our lecture is a voice moving the needle forward for our society”

AELEX 16th Annual Lecture themed, “Digital Economy: Africa’s catalyst for regional growth and transformation” comes up on Wednesday, 30th November. In this interview with Adedapo Tunde-Olowu, SAN, FCIArb, FCTI , Managing Partner, AELEX, BusinessDay discusses the impact of past sessions and what stakeholders can expect from the upcoming event.

Tell us about the ǼLEX Annual Lecture and the objectives for this annual event.

The ǼLEX lecture series was pioneered after the creation of the Firm in 2004, to not only participate in the conversations surrounding change in Africa, but to be leaders, shaping the course and discourse on these changes.

It has always been our Firm’s belief that the delivery of comprehensive legal services to our clients cannot be exclusive of the continuous changes in Africa’s economic, educational, political and social spheres. Being a Firm of our stature, with an active social and communal mindset that the good of our society and nation(s) impacts directly on client and societal well-being, it was a foregone conclusion that we needed to play our part in contributing to society which is how this lecture series was born

Would you say these objectives have been achieved over the years?

Yes, we believe it has. The ǼLEX lecture series has enjoyed tremendous success and has since become one of the most insightful and educational projects to look forward to in the legal calendar of yearly events.

It has drawn world leaders, and captains of industry to propose lasting solutions to common problems that plague our society today. The impact of the lecture series is such that it has been widely replicated throughout the legal profession.

Are there instances where the conversations and engagements at the annual lectures have led to significant policy changes whether as direct or indirect fallouts of the lecture?

Yes, there have been many direct and indirect fallouts from our annual lectures. All the conversations on various topics at our lectures have been one more collection of voices moving the needle forward for our society. Both our lecture speakers and participants are consistently drivers of industry who are able to and have in many instances implemented the takeaways from these lectures. We have also ensured that we publicise massively post-event so that the public can glean the key learnings from the lectures and apply them in their individual sectors and positions.

From the first lecture in 2005 – 2022, the firm has indeed had a plethora of profound discussions on critical issues impacting the development of Nigeria and Africa at large. These topics range from “The Regulator in a Deregulated Economy”- (2005); “Competition Policy as an Engine for Economic Growth”- (2006); “Corporate Governance: Who profits?” (2007); “Freedom of information: Balancing the Public’s right to know against the individual’s right to privacy” (2008); “How Ghana Kept the Lights On” (2009); “Corruption, the Thief in Broad Daylight” (2011); “Taxation without Representation”(2010); “This House Must Not Fall: Constitutional Reform and the People’s Will” – (2012); “In God’s Name: Politics, Religion and Economic Development” (2013). Others are: “Lagos: Urban infrastructure- lessons from the international community for Nigeria and Africa.” (2014); Politics, Democracy & Ethnicity (2015); “Making States Work” (2016); “Schooling Without Learning” (2017); “Strong Men Vs. Strong Institutions” (2019); and “The Nigeria We Want: Economic, Political & Social Justice”(2021).

Which would you say has the most impactful by way of outcomes, post-event?

All our lectures have been very impactful.

Now, tell us about the 2022 theme and what informed the choice of this year’s topic.

Just like all others before it, the lecture arrives at a timeous moment in our society’s history: with recent events like the adoption of (and arguments against cryptocurrency, the widespread of digital banking and banking the unbanked, the exponential growth in and reliance on technology for the advancement of all facets of living, this year’s theme- “Digital Economy: Africa’s catalyst for regional growth and transformation” is most auspicious.

The theme, “Digital Economy: Africa’s catalyst for regional growth and transformation” seems to be a statement of fact. Is this to direct the conversation “FOR” or should participants expect contrary positions to this (i.e. AGAINST)? Simply put, what should we expect from the speakers?

Definitely FOR. We do not believe that there are many successful arguments that can be made against the positives that digitalisation and in particular, the operation of a digital economy, has brought (and can bring) to Africa and the world at large. Our speakers on the topic this year are hand-picked veterans of the digital industry and our audience can expect a very insightful, invigorating, expository and practical discourse about the digital economy in Africa and how it impacts all our lives.

The ǼLEX Annual Lecture is known for its selection of renowned speakers/panelists who are distinguished in their fields and key players/ stakeholders in the given sectors, who are some of the speakers/panelists at this year’s event?

As always, we have assembled a stellar cast to discuss this year’s topic. The wealth of knowledge and experience of the selected panel will enrich the discussion as it relates to digital technology as a fundamental force for change in Africa, helping to support economic growth, deepen democratic governance, and expand civil society engagement.

The speakers include Oswald Osaretin Guobadia; SSA to President on Digital Transformation, Dawn Dimowo; Government Affairs and Public Policy Manager, Google, Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi; DG/CEO, National Information Technology Development Agency while Dr Segun Aina, OFR; President, FinTech Association of Nigeria will be the panel moderator.

In the past, the lecture is known to have a distinguished personality Chair the event. Has this been discarded and why?

Technically, no. We have not had a Chair whilst we have been having virtual lectures as experience has shown us that the preference at virtual events is an interactive panel style which sustains viewers interests. Our speakers have nonetheless remained distinguished personalities who are all top-notch in their various areas of endeavour. Last year, the panel included Dr. Ibukun Awosika, Mr Frank Nweke Jr, Mr Leke Alder and Mrs Remi Sonaiya.

COVID is behind us and there’s a yearning for in-person events once again, why has the firm settled for a virtual event once again?

We are very excited that Covid is finally in the rear-view mirror and that we can kickstart physical lectures once again next year. However, for this year we thought it very apposite to stay with the virtual format to keep faith with the theme of this years’ lecture which is basically an assay of digitalisation and tech and the role that they play in the economy. To put it light-heartedly, we are having a digital lecture to examine the digital revolution going on society right now.

Are there any other CSR activities the firm is involved in? If so, how does this fit into the vision of the firm?
In tandem with our reputation for impacting the development of both legal and social changes, the firm is actively involved in effecting societal change through our Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities and Pro Bono services. One of our notable CSR is our agelong partnership with the Child Lifeline (CLL) initiative which has existed from the very first year that the Firm was founded. Cll is a non-profit, charitable association founded to help children living on their own on the streets. The foundation gets them back into full-time education or vocational training, provides them with daily meals, counselling and family tracing. The children are cared for until they can be reunited with family or until they complete their chosen course of study or training. To know more about Child Lifeline or to partner with them, visit https://www.childlifeline.org/mission. We also provide career mentorship to young lawyers and students, start-up legal assistance to many fledgling companies and pro bono services that ensure access to justice and adequate representation to persons that would other be unable to afford it.