Africa’s economy has grown significantly over the past years. This has led to an increase in foreign investment in the continent and inevitably in increased international disputes. In addition to the growth of commercial and investment arbitrations involving African parties, Africa is seeing a change in direction with the establishment of new arbitral institutions in Kigali, Nairobi and Accra.
Could this be a sign of increased investor confidence in the African region, not only in regard to the economy but also the ability of African institutions to resolve multiparty commercial disputes? In 2013, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) registered almost double as many arbitrations involving African parties as it did in 2012, but only few of the arbitrators hearing these disputes were African. It is also notable that most of the international commercial arbitrations involving African parties were not heard in Africa.
The International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) heard a total of four arbitration cases involving the Republic of the Gambia until at least 2015. Of particular interest was that only one of the 12-panel arbitrators in these proceedings was from Africa, while eight were from the EU and three from North America. An opportunity presents itself for African professionals to acquire and gain the much-needed specialist expertise in this fast growing industry in our continent.