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    Building up Commercial Dispute Resolution in Africa


    © International Trade Centre, International Trade Forum - Issue 4/2006

    © Gicam When business and arbitration meet: André Siaka, head of GICAM, Cameroon's employers' association, and Sadjo Ousmanou, Registrar at GICAM's Arbitration Centre.

    Commercial arbitration and alternative dispute resolution are gaining ground in African countries, helping to improve the investment and business climate.

    Over 20 African countries have set up arbitration and mediation centres since 1995, usually under a national chamber of commerce. They have flourished in part as alternatives to overburdened courts. The challenge now is to strengthen these new services.

    As a follow-up to the 2nd ITC Symposium on the Management of Dispute Resolution Centres (Chamonix, France, May 2006), African arbitration institutions met in southern and western Africa. They looked at how to attract companies, both national and foreign, to resolve disputes in Africa rather than through European and American institutions, which happens at a high cost to the firms and to the detriment of Africa's legal community.

    The first meeting was in Johannesburg, South Africa in June 2006, organized by Arbitration & ADR in Africa (an association of lawyers promoting arbitration on the continent), the Arbitration Foundation of Southern Africa and ITC. All participants were self-financed, including 43 business lawyers from Nigeria and managers of arbitration centres from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

    The second meeting was organized in Douala, Cameroon, by the Arbitration Centre of GICAM (the Cameroonian employers' association), with the International Labour Organization and ITC. While this event focused on improving the national arbitration system, among the 120 participants were business lawyers from Benin, Côte d'Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of Congo and Nigeria, all on a pro bono basis.

    Participants at both events recognized the need to set up regional or continent-wide standards and accreditation for arbitrators and mediators, to help improve their standing and to enable them to work in centres outside their own countries. 

    For more information, contact Jean-François Bourque, ITC Senior Legal Adviser, atbourque@intracen.org

    For proceedings of the Cameroon event, contact the GICAM Arbitration Centre atsa2_ousmanou@hotmail.com

    Arbitration & ADR in Africa and ITC will shortly publish proceedings of the South African event.