JACQUELINE Musiitwa is a founder and managing partner of Hoja Law Group, a New York- and London-based boutique law firm which represents clients in corporate and intellectual property matters. Shamilla Kara talked to her
MUSIITWA, whose law firm represents also government entities, describes herself as â€œan attorney representing investors in Africa.â€
And that is just one position from a list of responsibilities Musiitwa juggles.
She is also a senior associate at the African European Affairs Consulting Group.
â€œI help advise on risks resulting from political, regulatory or societal change, public-private partnerships and corporate governance, including corporate social responsibility for European firms investing and operating in Africa as well as African firms doing business with Europe,â€ she says.
In addition, Musiitwa is an executive director of Transitional Trade, a firm she founded in 2007, also in New York.
Her firm â€œpromotes social trade, investment and entrepreneurship in post-conflict countries and transitional communities in Africa.â€ â€œWe also help small and medium-size social entrepreneurs create successful businesses by providing legal and business strategy advice and linking entrepreneurs to investors.â€
Furthermore, Musiitwa is a mentor for the New York Womenâ€™s Social Entrepreneurship Incubator programme, which provides support to young women social entrepreneurs.
She also finds time to teach and is an adjunct professor of International Law at Central Michigan University and at Drexel University in Pennsylvania, where she teaches social, political and economic issues.
Laying the foundation
Musiitwa says during her undergraduate studies, she was involved in a lot of human rights activities.
And at law school, she focused more on economic rights and creation of economic opportunities.
Her career profile
Musiitwa started as an associate at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, a law firm, in their San Francisco office in 2006, where she practiced in the area of corporate law and outsourcing matters.
She then founded Transitional Trade and later, the Hoja Law group.
Musiitwa, who was born in Zambia, has also done clerk work at Denton Wilde Sapteâ€™s associate office in Zambia, the special court for Sierra Leone and the University of Pretoriaâ€™s Centre for Human Rights.
She has also interned at the World Vision in Chennai, India, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Geneva, Switzerland and Lawyers Without Borders.
Is this something you worked towards?
â€œMy father wanted me to be a doctor and for years I was heading in that direction, but after a critical self-analysis, I realised that I am better suited and more interested in law than medicine,â€ she says.
Musiitwa, who studied political science and international studies for her bachelorâ€™s degree at Davidson College, North Carolina in the US also has a juris doctor from the University of Melbourne in Australia.
She also has a post-graduate diploma in legal practice from the Australian National University and a certificate from the Hague Academy of International Law.
What do you think of Law now?
â€œLaw is fascinating to me because it is a constantly evolving field and that forces the practitioner to constantly learn and improve oneself.â€
Tell us more about representing investors in Africa
â€œAs trade and investment between Africa and the rest of the world increases, it is important for the World to understand African trade and investment. I promote legal, business and cultural understanding between the US and Africa, Europe and Africa,â€ she says.
How has starting a business in your mid-twenties been?
â€œIt is a great achievement with numerous challenges along the way. But these have taught me how to be a better entrepreneur,â€ says this 2008 honoree of the Empire State Counsel programme. The programme honours New York attorneys who provide, â€œ a substantial number of pro bono hours to clients who cannot afford legal services,â€ she says.
Who are your clients? â€œThey include African diaspora-based firms, American, European and Asian companies investing and doing business in Africa,â€ she says.
Whatâ€™s your inspiration?
â€œI have been inspired by Ugandan jurists such as judge Daniel Nsereko and judge Julia Sebutinde.â€
And about your passion to rebrand Africa?
â€œI am passionate about being part of the movement that creates opportunities on the African continent. In the US where many people are ignorant about Africa, I felt it was important to increase peopleâ€™s knowledge and understanding of Africa.â€
â€œI feel am able to help rebrand Africa by acting as a conduit between the continents,â€ she says.
Representing Uganda abroad: Itâ€™s about rebranding Africa for Musiitwa