Review of Arbitration Law and Practice in Sub-Saharan Africa* – Vol. 1 No. 1


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Author: Edward Atanda**

Published: March 1990

Jurisdiction:
Africa
Topics:
Commercial Disputes
Arbitrability
Arbitral Process
Enforcement of Arbitral Awards

Description: This is a selective survey of the institution of arbitration in the former British colonies in sub-Saharan Africa. As arbitration is becoming more accepted as an alternative to courtroom litigation, many countries have modernized or are in the process of modernizing their arbitral statutes. Despite this recent international trend, the majority of the sub-Saharan African countries surveyed here continue to maintain the arbitral provisions they had as colonies of Great Britain.

The first section of this paper examines some of the arbitral procedures in these countries. The examination, based on a comparison between existing statutory provisions in Africa and the modern standard embodied in the 1985 UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration, reveals that the procedures are in many respects outdated and in need of revamping. The second section of the paper discusses the issue of enforcement of foreign arbitral awards. Most of the countries surveyed lack the most modern provision allowing for the enforcement of such awards, i.e., the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards. In order to expand their participation in international trade, these countries should consider becoming signatories of the Convention.

The last section of the paper discusses the recent attempts by the Asian-African Legal Consultative Committee (AALCC) to establish a regional arbitration center. The establishment of such a center will focus attention on the institution of arbitration and may inspire the countries in the region to modernize their arbitral statutes.

The concept of arbitration is familiar to Africans. Prior to colonization, there existed in the sub-Saharan states a customary and informal arbitral institution whose purpose was to prevent conflict and maintain order. This institution, the chief means of dispute settlement in tribal society, now co-exists with the legal structures imposed by colonial rule.

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**J.D. Candidate, Columbia University School of Law.