Published 3 November 2016
That there is no uniformity or homogeneity in arbitration laws, procedures and practices in Africa's 54 states is in our common knowledge. Therefore the term "African arbitration" commonly used by the unwary is clearly a misnoma and inaccurate.
Aside from legal pluralism there are also significant differences in the evolution and levels of development of ADR practices across the continent, some of which are deeply rooted in the cultural traditions of the continent's diversified communities. Therefore it may not be assumed that practising experience gained in domestic arbitration will transfer smoothly either across national borders and jurisdictions or seemlessly into the international domain. The legal and technical distinctions between domestic and international arbitration and the procedural laws and rules governing the recognition and enforcement of domestic and foreign awards make this clear.
These observations come to mind because the absence of uniformity in arbitration laws and practices is often seen as an obstacle to the development and promotion of the commonalities on the continent. But others see the phenomenon of diversity as a challenge that offers opportunities, for harnessing and deploying available best efforts, knowledge, expertise and the abundant capital and human resources locked up in Africa's several states, and for creating modern systems and mechanisms to combat perceived obstacles to the growth and advancement of arbitration in Africa. The objective of this paper is to highlight the increasing importance and growth in arbitration practice, the opportunities and benefits in arbitration for African stake holders, the prominent regional arbitration centres, the impact of the institutionalization of arbitration on the continent, and the need to find clear pathways for transforming arbitration in Africa.
Footnotes omitted from this introduction. This paper is drawn from the author's previous research and a recent presentation at an ICC/AFSA arbitration conference held at the Johannesburg Stock Exchange Auditorium on 14th October 2016.
For reader interested in this topic, be sure to check out our TDM 4 (2016) - Africa Special