Arbitration in Africa – At a Glance

Arbitration is the preferred method of adjudicating disputes arising from international investment and private transnational commercial transactions. Parties to such transactions customarily enter into contracts containing agreements to arbitrate future disputes and to abide by the award of the arbitrators. The efficacy of the arbitral process depends on national legal regimes willing and able to enforce these arbitral agreements. As Africa’s economic growth and potential attracts private foreign investment and international trade, a country’s arbitration law becomes an important factor. This “clickable” map is a quick reference to relevant arbitration law and practice in Africa. It lists and provides links to relevant legislation, arbitral institutions and rules, and treaty status.

Africa is politically and culturally diverse. Legal systems that are often descended from previous colonial systems vary widely. Nevertheless, most African countries generally follow two broad regimes for the enforcement of international commercial arbitral agreements and awards—the New York Convention and OHADA.

New York Convention – A majority of African states are party to the 1958 Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, known as the “New York Convention.” An award properly made in a state party to the convention is enforceable by the courts in other states party to the convention. Member states often adopt a version of the UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration to enable enforcement as per their obligations under the convention. The map indicates whether a state is party to the New York Convention and whether it has adopted a version of the UNCITRAL Model Law.

OHADA – 17 mostly Francophonic African countries are members of L’Organization pour L’Harmonisation du Droit des Affaires en Afrique (OHADA), a 1993 treaty promoting harmonization of business law, including the adoption of a modern arbitration act. The 1999 Uniform Act of Arbitration supersedes national arbitration laws and provides rules for arbitration in member states and enforcement of awards among member states. Many of the OHADA member states are also parties to the New York Convention. The map indicates whether a state is an OHADA member and cites the applicable legislation.

Countries that are not parties to either of the regimes above may have domestic arbitration legislation. These are noted on the map. The extent to which these laws allow for the enforcement of international arbitral agreements and awards can vary widely.

Most African countries are also parties to numerous bilateral investment treaties (BITs), most of which provide for arbitration to resolve investment disputes. These are not yet noted on the map. Many countries are parties to the ICSID Convention as noted on the map.

As arbitration increases on the continent, so does the need for institutions to provide administrative services for arbitral hearings. Some countries have strategically established centers to signal their support of arbitration and to attract arbitral hearings. Examples include, the Cairo Regional Centre for International Commercial Arbitration (CRCICA) and the newer Kigali Centre for International Arbitration (KIAC). Such institutions and their procedural rules are indicated on the map.

This map is a project of the Consortium on Negotiation and Conflict Resolution (CNCR), the Atlanta Center for International Arbitration and Mediation (ACIAM), and the law library at Georgia State University – College of Law in collaboration with the Atlanta International Arbitration Society  (AtlAS) and in conjunction with the Conference on Africa Related International Arbitration, Nov. 3 & 4, 2014, in Atlanta, Georgia.

Special thanks to law librarian Pamela Brannon and to College of Law web administrator Earl Daniels.