1st ICC regional conference puts future of Arbitration in Africa centre stage

  • 23 June 2016
Diversity in arbitration

The 1st ICC Africa Regional Arbitration Conference took place in Lagos this week, bringing together 500 participants to consider the prospects and challenges of arbitration on the African continent.

Yemi Osinbajo, Vice-President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria chaired the opening ceremony and encouraged business practitioners in Africa to embrace commercial arbitration as a means of attracting international investment.

Stressing the importance of Africa for ICC and calling for the regional conference to become an annual event, Mr Osinbajo said: “Every prudent society must design and constantly draw on processes for disputes to be resolved in an amicable manner.

The three-day ICC conference, hosted jointly with ICC Nigeria, focused on the relationship between inward foreign investment, types of disputes which may arise and the African experience in arbitration proceedings.

President of the International Court of Arbitration Alexis Mourre said: “Demand for the resolution of international disputes in Africa is growing strongly. ICC is committed to contributing to the development of the practice of international commercial arbitration in Africa and I hope that conferences like this will encourage more African arbitrators. ICC needs Africa and Africa needs arbitration.

ICC needs Africa and Africa needs arbitration.

Arbitration in Africa “alive and well”

Speaking in an interview with CNBC Africa, Olufunke Adekoya, a Vice-President of the Court, said that the African arbitration community should consistently engage at events such as the ICC Africa Regional Arbitration Conference.

Responding to questions during CNBC’s Beyond Markets programme, Ms Adekoya said that arbitration in Africa was a growing industry in Africa and there was a need to ensure that disputes are properly resolved to the satisfaction of both African countries and foreign investors.

Describing the current state of arbitration in Africa as “alive and well”, Ms Adekoya said increased investor interest in Africa was boosting the bargaining power of African businesses to have more say in the arbitration clause used in commercial contracts.

Ms Adekoya also said there was a lack of awareness among investors as to the strength of arbitral institutions in Africa and the rules available. “We have the resources on the African continent to support dispute resolution and we have African arbitrators,” she said.

Nigerian parties ranked as the most frequent user of ICC Arbitration in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2015. Dorothy Ufot of ICC Nigeria said: “All countries in Africa are busy trying to attract foreign investments…without international arbitration, there cannot be foreign investors.

The 1st ICC Africa Regional Arbitration Conference took place in line with ICC efforts to strengthen the Court’s presence and services in Africa. Last month ICC announced plans to partner with the Organisation for the Harmonization of Business Law in Africa (OHADA) to face the increasing number of trade disputes in Africa arising as a natural consequence of increased investment and trade on the continent.

ICC and OHADA are organizing two conferences on 23-24 June in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. The events will be followed by an introductory training to ICC Arbitration tailored to practitioners in the region. The training is co-organized with the International Union of Arbitrators (UIA) and will take place on 25 June.

To watch the CNBC interview visit: Arbitration in Africa: Prospects & challenges