Organizations in Africa are, for the first time, joining with counterparts in the US to promote the use of mediation as an appropriate method of dispute settlement.
The American Bar Association has celebrated Mediation Week since 2011 and this year mediation bodies, chambers of commerce and other business organizations across Africa will be joining in to promote mediation to businesses and the greater community.
Mediation and other alternate dispute resolution (ADR) mechanisms are gaining traction in Africa. The benefits are not only being embraced by business, but enjoying support from a growing collective of business organizations which are actively promoting ADR.
“Access to justice has long been on the developmental agenda and promoted by the World Bank, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, the UN and other global bodies. However, accessing justice is still a challenge for many in emerging markets, particularly for smaller businesses and start-ups,” explains CEO of Chamber Trade Sweden, Charlotte Kalin.
Chamber Trade Sweden has been assisting in promoting mediation and building mediation capacity within chambers of commerce to deliver services in South Africa, Zambia, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Ethiopia, Botswana, Namibia and Rwanda.
“There is overwhelming evidence that the use of alternative dispute settlement mechanisms lowers the risk of trade, especially in cross border trade. More than that, the call from smaller businesses to offer a more cost effective means to settle disputes has been heard clearly at our many partner engagements” says Ms. Kalin.
International research has shown that commercial mediation saves UK business around £2 billion a year in wasted management time, damaged relationships, lost productivity and legal fees. Moreover, evidence has shown that in Italy just a 75% mediation success rate can save 860 days (more than two years) of management time and over €7 000 per dispute.
“African trade is characterized by a high number of small and micro businesses, both in the formal and informal sectors. These businesses are particularly vulnerable to the costs of resolving disputes through the formal court process,” explains Nomfundo Walaza, Executive Director of PeaceSystems, a Cape Town NGO specializing in developing ADR institutions and systems.
“Traditionally, mediation has always been part of the African way of doing business. However, there are very few institutions which are facilitating the use of mediation – either between businesses, or between businesses and our communities. Our work with Chamber Trade Sweden is focused on building both systems and capacity within established chambers of commerce and other business member organizations. This work will allow businesses, both large and small, access to justice and empower the small business owner, especially the many women owners, to confidently grow their companies and employ more people,” states Ms. Walaza.
Mediation Week takes place from 11 to 17 October and the theme for 2015 is Mediation: Successes, Challenges, Trends and the Next Generation: Looking to the past, present and future.
“Companies of all sizes and from all sectors are increasingly using mediation and including so-called ‘med-arb’ clauses in their contracts. These clauses provide for mediation as the first step for resolving disputes and going to arbitration only when the mediation has not finally resolved the dispute. In mediation, the business owners and managers control the process and work towards a business-minded result,” comments Professor Patricia Shaughnessy, Stockholm University.
Chamber Trade Sweden is working with PeaceSystems and its partners to highlight the benefits of mediation to business leaders and business owners during Mediation Week. This will be achieved through seminars, training and awareness raising initiatives.
“The ability to resolve commercial disputes efficiently and cost effectively will have a major impact in creating an attractive and secure business climate for both domestic and foreign investors. We are delighted with the collaboration we have enjoyed so far, and believe that, by increasing our efforts and investments in the promotion of ADR, we are making a lasting and meaningful impact on African economic sustainability,” Ms. Kalin concludes.
About Chamber Trade Sweden
Chamber Trade Sweden works throughout Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe, collaborating with and building capacity in local chambers of commerce and business organizations. For more information visit www.chambertradesweden.se
PeaceSystems is a civil society organizations which supports the development of sustainable institutions and systems which prevent, manage and resolve conflict in Africa and other developing regions. For more visit www.peacesystems.org