Mr Olatunde Busari, Chairman, Nigeria Branch of Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArB), says it is imperative to improve the capacity of dispute resolvers in African countries.
According to him, this is necessary as Africa embarks on the road to greater Intra-Africa trade as well as increased trade with countries outside the continent.
Busari spoke on Thursday at a two-day 2019 Annual Conference of the institute with the theme: “Positioning Africa: The Changing Landscape in Alternative Dispute Resolution” in Lagos.
There were no fewer than 600 delegates from 12 countries across five continents of the world are attending the conference.
“It is imperative to improve the capacity of dispute resolvers in African countries as Africa embarks on the road to greater Intra-Africa trade as well as increased trade with countries outside the continent,’’ Busari said.
He said that the instrument was regarded as a long-sought mechanism to give cross-border disputants the confidence that, if they engage in mediation of international commercial disputes, any resulting agreement will be enforceable by its terms.
“As mediation takes centre-stage in the new UN Treaty on Mediation, it has become necessary to undertake an in-depth study of the Singapore Convention and its implication for cross-border settlement in Nigeria.
“Arbitrability and the enforcement of arbitral awards is at the centre of any arbitration process.
“It touches on the capacity and jurisdiction of the arbitrator or the arbitral tribunal to embark on an arbitration with respect to any matter referred to them.
“The public policy reason for non-arbitrability of certain disputes are borne out of public desire to protect the state and public interest.
“Enforcement and enforceability of arbitral awards gives credence to the process resulting in the expansion and increasing use of arbitration.
“For this reason, arbitrability and public policy considerations have become a recurrent issue faced by arbitrators, judges, contract drafters and other stakeholders.
“With the increasing use of arbitration as a mechanism for dispute resolution in various industries, there is a rise of specialist arbitrations such as Sport Arbitration, Islamic Finance Arbitration and Energy Arbitration,” he said.
Busari said that the use of arbitration as a dispute resolution mechanism had continued to grow in leaps and bounds.
“Persons who act as arbitrators undertake serious responsibilities to the public, and to the parties. These responsibilities include important ethical obligations,” he said.
The chairman said that the conference would provide the opportunity to discuss, identify challenges and proffer ways to advance arbitration in Africa in terms of standard and quality of services and support infrastructure.
Busari said that the conference theme was focussed on the number of changes currently taking place on the global and regional scenes, which would in no small measure impact alternative dispute resolution.
“This conference provides an opportunity to learn from the experiences of other climes, assess our capabilities and capacity in the field of international dispute resolution and to ask questions.
“What are the current initiatives and developments in respect of the court assisted mediation? What are the relevant ADR Rules and their implications on ADR practice?
“The theme is so apt for this period, because so many contemporary issues are coming to the fore.
“A conference like this is required and also a good opportunity for us to have an intellectual discuss on these issues.
Also, Mr Kariuki Muigua, a Chartered Arbitrator, Africa Trustee, said that ADR was not a new concept in Africa, but a way of life.
“Africans have known for hundreds of years that they can sit down and negotiate, meditate and arbitrate. Good neighbourliness, harmony and peace have been a key pillar of African societies.
“ADR is known for its attributes of informality, cost effectiveness and its capacity to ensure relations between individuals and communities remain intact.
“Arbitration has been used to settle disputes in the commercial and other sectors. Arbitration has the effect of building bridges across legal jurisdictions.
“Africa was the leader in ADR. It should aim to re-position itself as the leader in this modern world.
“Africa should be at the forefront in the ADR sphere. ADR practitioners and the practice itself face many challenges like insufficient infrastructure.
“Low uptake of arbitration and ADR, unsupportive legal systems, travel restrictions, insufficient use of technology; and huge costs associated with arbitration.
“We must find a way to surmount these challenges and take our rightful place with the eagles on the top of the mountain,” he said.