Conference and Research Project Background
It is well acknowledged that the level of participation by African states in the global arbitral discourse is much less than the numbers of arbitration references it generates. Such participation is measured on the numbers of arbitration references that hold in the continent (as seat of arbitration); the numbers of arbitrators of African origin that are appointed as members of such arbitral tribunals; the numbers of African law firms/practices or lawyers that represent clients/disputants in such references; the numbers and caseload of arbitration institutions that administer arbitral references.
This project therefore empirically and systematically examines the reasons for this weak showing by each of four identified stakeholders and suggests remedial actions over an agreed period of time. Such remedial actions will be monitored for a shift (or not) in the desired direction. The shift will be for an increase in the numbers of arbitrations held within the continent; increase in the numbers of arbitrators of African origin appointed; increase in the numbers of African lawyers representing disputants in such references; increase in the caseload of arbitration institutions; and increase in the numbers of published arbitration related court decisions. There is currently no viable empirical research in this field in the continent to inform decisions, revision of laws and knowledge and practice sharing across the continent.
- The State (Governments): provision of legal and physical infrastructure and enabling environment for arbitration to thrive in the resolution of disputes from domestic and transnational transactions.
- Courts and Judges: informed decision-making on arbitration related disputes which it will adjudicate upon and contribute to the development of global arbitral jurisprudence; what I call the ‘African voices’ will participate in the shaping of emanating global arbitral jurisprudence. The scholarship of their decisions and judicial reasoning will also begin to restore respect for and confidence in the judiciary in these countries.
- Arbitration institutions: to meet international best practices in the administration of arbitration references and strategically share the arbitral market space in Africa.
- Legal service providers: will engage primarily lawyers who advise and represent disputants and act as arbitrators: to continue to share best practices and support for the process of arbitration in purely domestic disputes and those arising from intra-African and international transactions.
There will be four conferences targeted at each stakeholder over a four year period. Each conference will hold in a different African country. The first conference examined the role of arbitration institutions in the development of arbitration in the continent. This conference was aptly hosted by the African Union Commission, Addis Ababa, as the umbrella organisation of African states. The second conference will examine the role of courts and judges in the development of arbitration in the continent. This conference will be hosted in 2016 by the Lagos Court of Arbitration in their new headquarters complex in Lagos. The third conference in the series will examine the role of the state in supporting the development of arbitration in the continent. This conference will be hosted by the Cairo Regional Centre for Arbitration in 2017; and the last conference in the series will examine the role of legal services providers in a city in East Africa in 2018.
Goal of the Conferences
So the goal of these series of conferences is to transform the arbitral landscape of the jurisdictions in Africa so that they can attract more arbitration references with seats in their jurisdictions and develop their domestic arbitration. This goal is also the objective of the main research project to which this conference will contribute. These therefore are the desired impact: change in numbers of references; modernised legal frameworks; increase in numbers of arbitration references with seats in cities in the continent, increase in the numbers of domestic arbitration and increase in the numbers of well-reasoned court judgments on arbitration from the continent.
Output from the conferences
The output from each conference will be published either as a book or special collection in a refereed journal. In addition, the papers presented at each of the conferences will be available online on this and SOAS University of London websites.