Ratification of NY convention on Arbitration – Starting point for lowering the risks of commercial disputes in Ethiopia

The back side of the coin to all business and trade relations is handling commercial disputes. Africa is today underdeveloped in providing independent third party arbitration and mediation institutions for handling such commercial disputes. This raises the risk premium for doing business with Africa. Developing commercial dispute resolution capacity through chambers of commerce is thus one important way to enable business in Africa.

Promoting commercial dispute resolution in Africa is all about working for growth, says Wahida Parker from the South African law firm Equillore, who was a guest speaker at the second international conference on ADR and arbitration arranged by Addis Ababa Chamber of Commerce and Chamber Trade Sweden. Wahida herself is specialized in mediation and has handled thousands of cases which have made life easier for small and medium sized businesses.

Promoting ADR and arbitration in Africa is actually a question of access to justice and a democracy issue. At the same time, it also means promoting the trade and investment climate and improving conditions for trade (domestic as well as regional) by creating safe business environments for traders and business people (especially small, micro and medium enterprises) in our countries of co-operation, and of course supporting regional economic integration.

The 2016 international conference in Addis had the theme “Access to Justice to Enhance Business Development.” Signing the New York Convention (NYC) was an outstanding issue from the 2015 conference which echoed in the discussion. Ethiopia stands out as one of the few countries that has not signed the NYC. This is a key infrastructure issue that needs to be in place, agrees both Ulf Franke and Patricia Shaughnessy, chairman respectively board member of the Stockholm Arbitration Institute who were key note speakers at the conference. At the conference, the UN organisation UNCITRAL and Jae Jae Sung Lee played a key role outlining the international standards in the area including the legal model law base which is being developed also for mediation.

Yohannes Woldegebriel, head of the Addis Ababa Arbitration Institute which is tied to the chambers, underlined the need for a modernisation of the Ethiopia’s arbitration law. There is also a great need for skills development in the courts and among business. We need to ask ourselves what Ethiopia can do to make itself attractive and competitive for doing business, says Yohannes Woldegebriel, who heads the Addis Ababa Arbitration Institute. How for instance would an Ethiopian company resolve a commercial dispute with a Chinese firm? Would it go through arbitration and where would the case be settled? Such a scenario could be very complicated for Ethiopia. A starting point for all of this is ratifying the New York Convention on arbitration.

Also, read about how we facilitated the first African Mediation Initiative – http://chambertradesweden.se/2015/10/07/mediation-week/

For questions contact charlotte.kalin@chambertrade.se