If you are an aid organisation, a trader or an individual business person who is owed money, there are certain general laws of physics which apply:
- If money is owed in a foreign country on the African continent, it is unlikely that you will recover anything if you offer a "no cure no pay" or a contingency arrangement to your collector. This is because there are too many basic expenses incurred in the recovery process (eg. travel, payment to bailiffs/advocates, etc). No debt collector will seriously expend the time and money required because the risks are too high in a foreign country.
- If you have spent 10% of the value of the debt and you are no closer to actual recovery, then its time to consider writing that debt off before you venture into the world of unwarranted, unjustified expense. Sometimes you might have entered into a bad deal or have gone into business with the wrong parties. But remember to be honest with us as this will help you, the creditor, because when you first get in touch with us, it will be you who knows the facts of your case. Not us. So please be sure to give us as much detail about the matter as possible. In particular:
||The address of the debtor
|| The amount owed
||The age of the debt
||A copy of any invoices or contracts evidencing the contract
||A copy of any emails or correspondence from the debtor where he/it reconfirms or undertakes to repay the debt. Sometimes these emails amount to an acknowledgement of debt by the debtor
||Any issues which a debtor may use in order to avoid liability – eg that the goods arrived late, that the goods were of inferior quality or that the goods were of incorrect specifications. We need to know about these issues even if you contend they are not true
- It is not advisable or profitable to use a local correspondent in West, Central, North and East Africa unless that correspondent is supervised or monitored closely. Which is why a core element of our business is our physical presence at the debtor's place of business and home working alongside those correspondents
Our objective is to provide the most effective, cost efficient, prudent business solutions to these unusual debt recovery problems in Africa.
Christopher Bean & Associates, International RecoveriesBusiness in Africa is
invariably conducted in a different manner from that in Europe & the USA .
Business in Africa is invariably conducted in a different manner from that in Europe & the USA.
Debt recovery is therefore not as simple in these difficult countries as the normal commercial and court infrastructures are not in place to assist the creditors.
Our network is composed of local lawyers, bankers, recovery agents and businessmen who are well versed in dealing with business problems in Africa and, therefore, have experience in and a fundamental understanding of that vital difference.
We also are in the fortunate position to be able to "follow the money" where a debtor is fraudulently trying to hide and move his/its money across national and continental borders in the process of avoiding debts.
In the last 5 years our job in tracking money laundering transactions has expanded greatly and has been aided by international money laundering legislation (eg the US Patriot Act of 2001) which has made forensic enquiries much easier.
In the event that the issue becomes criminal, we are also able to obtain the assistance of Interpol and other local police agencies such as Scotland Yard and the FBI in order to obtain further assistance in making recoveries.
We Do It
Our team visits the debtor in the country where the debtor is located. In those cases (approx. 30%) where our powers of persuasion are inadequate, we would then proceed by using legal "commando tactics" like attachment orders to obtain payment.
We have established our own network of proven legal correspondents (i.e.: attorneys, bailiffs and huissiers de justice) throughout the continent who we instruct personally. By this we mean that we are personally/physically on the spot to assist the correspondents in achieving our goal which is the recovery of money or the attachment of assets.
We don't break peoples' legs to achieve our goals. In fact we have often observed that if the debtor repays all or even part of the debt, then the debtor /creditor relationship becomes re-established – albeit on different terms. However, the debtor no longer has to try and buy goods from your competitors anymore. Therefore the debtor will often continue buying from you in cash instead of on credit - as before.
Tracing / Criminal Debtors
We have an extensive knowledge of attachment procedures in most jurisdictions. Often the debtor in Africa has "nestegg" assets in Mauritius, Monaco, the UK, Switzerland or elsewhere in Europe. Therefore, if necessary, (and very often it is necessary) we are able to search for and, upon discovery, attach assets almost anywhere in the world. To this end we also make use of forensic techniques and we also use police agencies such as Scotland Yard, the FBI and Interpol.
We are Different and Better
Our method of direct physical involvement is far more effective than written or telephonic correspondence. Frequently, we find that a visit from our team is enough to find a solution. The solution often involves a debt repayment schedule, a barter, or a debt secured on a mortgage. The secret is that our meetings are not confrontational. Instead we try to get the debtor to see us as a means to help them to resolve their debt problems and re-establish their credibility with the creditor.
With our understanding of law in Africa - be it based on the French, Portuguese or English systems - we have set many precedents in the way in which we operate. For example, we were the first lawyers to have obtained and used a Mareva injunction (attachments) in Tanzania, Zambia and Ghana.
Our fee structure is simple, reasonable and fixed. The creditor, our client pays a nonrefundable advance of between 10% and 15% of the value of the debt (debts in excess of $400,000.00 attract a lower deposit) The advance is used to cover travel, hotel and legal costs vital to achieve recovery. We then take a further agreed percentage (usually 10%-15% ) on whatever is recovered. This formula guarantees that the clients know the limitations of their costs of recovery and the client will also be aware that we are results driven.
We will not undertake any commission unless there is a strong prospect of
a successful recovery.
Another note on the “no cure no pay” fantasy
- Debt recovery requires investment. One has to spend money to make a return because,
from the moment when the debtor is in default, the creditor has nothing except
hope until a return is made.
- There are collection agencies who lure
clients with a "no cure no pay" arrangement. By nature of the fact that
virtually all debts require an initial financial investment in terms of investigation,
surveillance, litigation, monitoring and persistent, consistent pressure on the
debtor, it is a fool's paradise to believe recoveries in Africa are possible on
a contingency basis. If a recovery is made then the amount will only be a tiny percentage of the total amount
In many cases we keep the debtor under continuous pressure to repay until the end - which is why some of our cases have taken well over 2 years to finalize and recover.
In our experience, very few significant recoveries are made by arriving like "Zorro " in a foreign country, and then exerting brief pressure on the debtor in pursuit of a claim. In any event, the debtor probably does not have ready cash available. Which is why we set up a structured repayment schedule for the debtor. The repayment is then monitored by our local agents who are always nearby to continue with the necessary element of consistent pressure.
Another feature of the recovery process is that the debtor thinks that it cannot repay the debt. That debtor has often failed to consider financial tools where credit can be leveraged from the debtor's asset profile. We can and often do assist the debtor in raising the necessary finance to repay the debt directly or in terms of a repayment schedule.
The additional time spent pursuing the debtor does not cost the creditor more money.
Our success rate on specific cases is dependent on several factors including the
age of the debt and the financial standing of the debtor. Since 1999, however,
we have made returns ranging from a low of 44% to a high of 80% in Africa.
In another light: Our recovery reconciliation figures show that for every
dollar the creditor has spent on our services, that creditor has seen an average
of $3 in return.
There are obviously exceptions to these statistics. However, as the prospective client, you alone know in the beginning whether recovery attempts are worthwhile, which is why we will question the creditor closely on these issues
At the point when the client is about to instruct us formally, we will provide
that client with names of referees / other clients who will explain and provide
references. Contact our South Africa Debt Collection