ADR and arbitration conference flings open the doors of trade with Africa

Consensus from local and international experts is that Africa stands on the brink of considerable growth in the fields of alternate dispute resolution (ADR) and arbitration.

More than 100 experts, activists and professional gathered in Cape Town in November 2013 to discuss the business and policy challenges and opportunities of ADR in Africa.

The inaugural ADR in Africa conference was a joint initiative between Chamber Trade Sweden and the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry and will become an annual event.

While ADR is still in its infancy in Africa, the continent stands to gain much from the work that has already been done by European and other global regions.

“There is no doubt that African policy makers must take note of the challenges faced and overcome by their international counterparts. However, the fact that we are actively engaging with one another, and that we are having frank conversations at such an early stage, presents both public and private sector players with very real opportunities,” comments Bronwen Kausch, CEO of the African Commercial Dispute Settlement Centre, housed in the Cape Chamber of Commerce.

South African Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, Jeff Radebe, validated this sentiment when he opened the conference, saying:

“A conference that seeks to thrash out an arbitration system that will deal with the growing business, trade and investments partnerships is both necessary and welcomed. It is my view that the evolution of an ADR mechanism is one venture that will further unlock this untapped business potential as foreign investors find confidence that their disputes with local companies and businesses will be arbitrated speedily to the mutual benefit of all involved.

“The added advantage will also be that as disputes can be arbitrated within the African continent, the costs, the time and the inconvenience of attending to disputes in investing countries will be reduced.”

Speakers covered a variety of topics, looking at ways to effectively commercialize ADR offerings on the continent; government’s role in promoting ADR; the role of ADR in trade facilitation; challenges to building capacity and the need to shift the culture from litigation to facilitated settlement.

The two-day conference opened the avenues of further discussion between African and global professionals and advocates of ADR.

Chairman of the Arbitration Institute of the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce and Conference Chair, Ulf Franke, announced the formation of an international advisory board for the African Commercial Dispute Settlement Centre.

It also allowed for a further session between leaders of several African chambers of commerce on how to collaborate to build a network of sister ADR centres throughout Africa, to be housed within the various chambers.

“There is no doubt that this conference was a runaway success. The partnership between Chamber Trade Sweden and the Cape Chamber of Commerce is not only bearing fruit, but is opening further doors for ongoing co-operation between the organisations. ADR remains one of the most important ways for us to mitigate the risk of cross border trade and stimulate business between our countries, concludes Charlotte Kalin, CEO of Chamber Trade Sweden.

Bronwen Kausch, Cape Chamber of Commerce