NJ Ayuk is a 38-year-old lawyer who runs one of Africa’s most successful law firms. NJ is a Cameroonian. He Ay is the chief member of Centurion Law Group, a pan-African corporate law firm specializing in energy and infrastructure law, representing clients in the sub-Saharan region. The firm’s charter is to help small and medium-sized enterprises succeed in Africa.
The lawyer, with a background in petroleum extraction, has established a strong reputation for his practice, which encompasses business law, real estate, and investment law, among others. He worked at the London office of the large international law firm Clifford Chance working on oil and gas deals for the likes of Shell and BP. It was during this time that he developed an interest in energy projects. He then moved to Houston to work at Baker Botts, representing several energy industry majors, including Southwestern Energy Company, Marathon Oil Corporation (purchased by Chevron), Plains Exploration & Production Company, and Kennecott Corp.
NJ Ayuk has been involved in the planning, negotiating, and execution of natural resource initiatives throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. He is a founding partner of Centurion Law Group, a firm that focuses on energy and infrastructure law. He retired from the firm but returned to the fold to assist in restructuring the business and rebranding. He is currently the company’s Chief Operating Officer.
As part of his leadership role at CGG, NJ Ayuk has established a strong reputation for defending companies in politically-sensitive projects. He joins other notable Cameroonian leaders who have made headlines globally, including President Paul Biya, Agbéyomé Kodjo, and former Vice-President Parti Sankariste leader Protais Essomba. Cameroon’s current President-elect, Paul Biya, vigorously campaigned for him during his election run for the presidency in 2011.
NJ Ayuk is a member of the Energy Bar Association, the American Bar Association, the Texas Bar Association, and the International Bar Association. NJ Ayuk is also a member of the African Legal Forum Advisory Board. The forum’s mission is to provide the knowledge and expertise needed to foster African business success by sharing legal minds.
Ayuk has written extensively on the use of law as an economic development tool. In a piece titled “The Role of Law in Enabling Africa for Success,” he explains how good laws are essential for businesses to succeed and that African countries have been slow to adapt laws needed for business growth, inadvertently holding back globalization as well as domestic market development. He says, “Africa must face the reality that some of her laws are a barrier and not a facilitator of doing business.”
Ayuk argues for new ways to accomplish this, such as using existing laws to create “innovation zones” for testing new business models without setting up special development zones. These approaches allow African countries to experiment with different techniques and mitigate political risks in addressing many complex problems. He recommends “sustainable economic solutions with an increase in private sector investment” be made possible by looking at economic issues through different lenses.
Ayuk has encouraged African leaders to take advantage of the opportunities offered by their natural resources.