The 7th African Conference on International Arbitration of the International Chamber of Commerce(ICC) International Court of Arbitration has come and gone but the effect it has on the Africa Arbitration market will linger. I must state that the conference was very impactful both in deepening the African involvement in International Arbitration especially in the International Court of Arbitration and also in capacity building of African Arbitrators cum would-be arbitrators. I had learnt of how a career-boosting event the conference is and I was determined to take all the benefits of the conference which range from inciting sessions and networking.
When my firm Olisa Agbakoba Legal (OAL) one of the sponsors of the event enlisted me amongst the Arbitrators to attend the event, it felt like I won the lottery. I decided I will not miss any aspect of the event from the opening program to the closing party. I was there right from the 31st May 2023, when the Conference was declared open with a cocktail at the poolside of Eko Hotel where participants and speakers were treated to an evening of Jazz music with corresponding finger foods and drinks in a convivial atmosphere of interaction and networking, as the President of ICC International Court of Arbitration and other staff of the Court were present, which was a memorable one.
The Conference day one Started with welcome addresses by Babatunde Savage (Chairman, International Chamber of Commerce Nigeria ICCN), Dorothy Udeme Ufot SAN(Chairman, ICCN Commission on Arbitration and ADR), Alexander Fessas( Secretary General, ICC International Court of Arbitration). Special remarks by Y.C.Maikyau SAN, OON the President of Nigeria Bar Association and Dr. Bashir Jamoh, OFR, Director General of NIMASA followed immediately while John Denton Secretary General of ICC Delivered the Keynote Address and set the tone for the various discussion in the sessions of the Conference.
The Conference featured a BUSINESS SPOTLIGHT: INTERVIEW WITH BUSINESS COMMUNITY session, promoting global trade continuity and facilitating dispute resolution. Key Nigeria and African business players, Oscar Onyema and Tony Elumelu, were invited.
The Session coordinator Diamana Diawara Introduced the President of the ICC International Court of Arbitration Claudio Salomo who in turn introduced and led Oscar Onyema, OON, Group CEO of the Nigerian Stock Exchange and Tony Elumelu, OFR Chairman of Heirs Holding and Founder of Elumelu Foundation to a robust interview which raised a lot of issues as well as resolutions below:
Africa is the future of arbitration and global business due to investments and infrastructure development. The AFCFTA passage will boost domestic production, boosting trade and attracting foreign direct investment. Diversity, competence, and integrity are essential for international arbitration. The Nigerian business sector and the maritime industry are adaptable to the global shift towards arbitration.
Arbitration remains the top dispute resolution method in Africa, with arbitrators advocating for the country to become a hub for international arbitration. The International Commercial Court (ICC) facilitates efficient trade and dispute resolution, providing access to justice and the rule of law. The Nigeria Bar Association, the largest in Africa, is committed to collaborating with the ICC for capacity building and fostering global business and arbitration. Africa’s youth potential can be harnessed through the right operating and investment environment, showcasing the potential of the private sector in Africa.
The session on AFRICAN ARBITRATION AND ADR IN REVIEW: INTERNATIONAL MILESTONES AND A LOOK AT 100 YEARS OF THE ICC was Moderated by Mrs Funke Adekoya. Speakers: Tafadzwa Pasipanodya, Jonathan Barnes, Julian Nkafu, Mainaya Essien & Girgis Abd El- Shahid.
The session highlights ICC’s success in African arbitration and its benefits for businesses while discussing future opportunities and strategies to attract foreign investment. In resolving the following issues raised in this session; The International Court of Arbitration (ICC) has had a significant impact on African arbitration, with its awards and jurisprudence influencing the continent. The ICC’s footprint in Africa is evident in ECOWAS and OHADA, where it has a significant impact on international arbitration rules and legislation. The recent ICC Rules update offers opportunities for ICC to enhance its reputation and good standing in African jurisdictions. The ICC should continue to demystify the concept and practicality of arbitration, disseminate information on its workability and benefits to judges and key actors, and consider alternative dispute resolution mechanisms. Additionally, ICC should address non-refundable filing fees and training costs in some African jurisdictions, and ensure local and in-house counsels are appointed as arbitrators in ICC arbitration proceedings.
THE ICC COURT IN ACTION: A BEHIND-THE-SCENES LOOK AT THE SCRUTINY OF AWARD
The President and Secretary of the ICC International Court of Arbitration led other members of the court in a role-play to simulate the ICC Court sitting session about the various issues that commonly arise during the scrutiny process of awards in African cases.
It is derived from the session that an award must have clear reasoning, the claim must be enforceable, the Parties’ respective positions to the issues or contractual bases must be set out and the draft award must be scrutinized.
PRIMA FACIE OR DE NOVOP EXAMINING JUDICIAL DIFFERENCE TO ARBITRATORS JURISDICTIONAL DETERMINATIONS
This section was moderated by Elizabeth Oger-Gross, while Prof.George Bermann, and Noami Tarawali amongst others were the Speakers. The focus was to explore the impact of the different approaches of State courts to Arbitral tribunal jurisdictional determinations on the efficacy of arbitration as a dispute resolution mechanism.
LEGISLATIVE CHANGES IN THE AFRICAN ARBITRATION FRAMEWORK
Folashade Alli moderated the Session and led the Speakers Ghiyta Iraqi, Abdul Jinadu, Funmi Roberts and Leyou Tameru on the above topic. The session examined recent legislative developments in the African arbitration community, focusing on the Just passed Arbitration and Mediation Act, 2023.
AFRICAN DOCTRINE IN INTERNATIONAL ARBITRATION: A NECESSARY REVOLUTION.
To demonstrate the diversity and inclusivity posture of the ICC the above session was held in the French language by delegates from Paris and other francophone countries and was translated into English. The highlights of this session hinged on African doctrine in international arbitration as a necessary revolution.
THE ROLE OF ETHICS AND COMPETENCE IN PROMOTING ACCESS TO JUSTICE IN INTERNATIONAL ARBITRATION.
Wale Akoni SAN moderated the section and led Greg Falkof, Dr. Nagla Nassar, Patrick Taylor and Daniel Wilmot the speakers to examine instances of corruption in international arbitration. They focused on the need for impartiality and independence of arbitrators, transparency in proceedings and due process of law.
It was resolved that the competence of arbitrators including their understanding of the law and cultural context of the parties involved is also essential in ensuring access to Justice.
DISPUTE RESOLUTION IN AFRICA: STRIKING THE BALANCE FOR THE NEXT CENTURY
Boma Ayorinde Alabi SAN moderated the session while Selma Baccari, Adedoyin Rhodes-Vivour SAN, Kwadwa Sarkodie, and Yolanda Walker were speakers on the panel. Their discussion focused on the critical role of mediation and other ADR methods in resolving business disputes and ICC centenary pledges.
ENFORCEMENT OF ARBITRAL AWARDS: A COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS
This session was moderated by Sola Adegbomire, Hamid Abdulkareem, Nikhil Desai, Yaye Diabote and Dorothy Udeme Ufot, SAN were the speakers. The session provided valuable insights into the challenges and opportunities for enforcing arbitral awards in Africa and attempted to identify best practices for promoting investment and resolving disputes in Africa.
DEBATE: IS ARBITRATION LIVING UP TO ITS PROMISE?
This concluding session was moderated by Seyilayo Ojo who led the debaters cum Speakers Prof.Paul Idornigie SAN and Reza Mahtashami KC. The session had an extensive evaluation of whether arbitration is living up to its expectation and whether it is meeting the Clients need. While one side believes it is not living up to its expectation the other believes it is meeting the needs of clients.
Both parties eventually agreed that arbitration to a great extent is meeting the client’s needs, therefore, can be said to be living up to its promise though more is needed to improve upon the status quo.
The Conference was brought to a remarkable close with a closing party at a very suiting venue where we danced and partied to a glorious promise of a better and prosperous practice of Arbitration.