31 October 2023
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Recent trends and developments in international arbitration in Africa

To The Point

This latest edition of our Africa Business Newsletter brings you insights into the dynamic field of international arbitration. This newsletter includes: an overview of the current arbitration landscape in Africa, highlights of the latest trends and developments in Africa-related arbitrations, and a list of selected matters and references that our teams have recently handled.


As a pretext to this focus, we are excited to announce the recent addition of Ioana Knoll-Tudor as partner, in order to develop the international arbitration practice of our Paris office and strengthen the global arbitration practice of the firm. With Ioana’s arrival, Addleshaw Goddard extends its international arbitration practice in its offices strategically located in all main arbitration centres of the world – France (Paris), Germany (Hamburg, Munich and Frankfurt, and soon Berlin), the United Kingdom (6 offices), Asia (Singapore, Japan) and the Middle East (UAE, Qatar, Oman and Saudi Arabia).

Our expertise in international arbitration also extends to the African continent now more than ever, a region of growing significance in the foreign investments and arbitration landscapes. 

Overview: international arbitration in Africa

The international arbitration landscape in Africa has been evolving particularly rapidly over the last decade, driven by a surge in international trade and investment across the continent. Cross-border investment disputes involving African parties or assets have seen a significant increase in recent years, with international arbitration emerging as the primary means of resolving disputes.

  • Arbitral institutions: prominent international arbitral institutions like the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA), and the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) continue to play a pivotal role in shaping the arbitration landscape in Africa. Their strong global reputations and substantial experience, notably in handling high-value cases, have made them the preferred choice for many parties operating on the continent;
  • OHADA: another key player in the African arbitration landscape is the Organization for the Harmonization of Business Law in Africa (OHADA), which provides a unified arbitration law across its 17 member states. The growing popularity and success of OHADA arbitration in the region can be mostly attributed to two of its instruments: (i) the OHADA Uniform Arbitration Act, which governs both domestic and international arbitrations and includes provisions on the administration of arbitral proceedings and the enforcement of arbitral awards, and (ii) the Common Court of Justice and Arbitration (CCJA), located in Abidjan, which acts both as a supranational court with final jurisdiction over all matters within the scope of OHADA jurisdiction as well as an arbitration institution with its own set of arbitration rules;
  • Regional arbitration centres: in addition to international institutions and OHADA, several regional arbitration centres have emerged in key cities such as the Arbitration Foundation of Southern Africa (AFSA), the Cairo Regional Centre for International Commercial Arbitration (CRCICA), the Kigali International Arbitration Centre (KIAC), the Lagos Court of Arbitration (LCA), and the Nairobi Centre for International Arbitration (NCIA). The growing popularity of these centres, built around their offer of tailored arbitration services that cater to the specific needs of the local and regional business communities, reflects a positive trend towards the decentralization and localization of arbitration services in Africa;
  • Statistics: the growing prominence of arbitration in Africa is further reflected in statistics. For instance, LCIA caseloads involving sub-Saharan parties has grown from 4.5% in 2011 to 11.7% in 2020. Additionally, caseloads from ICSID involving at least one party from a sub-Saharan African state have nearly tripled over the last decade, while Oil, Gas & Mining consistently appears as the most represented economic sectors in cases registered before ICSID and involving African States (33% in 2017).

Looking ahead, the future of international arbitration in Africa appears promising. The continued growth of international trade and investment, coupled with the ongoing efforts to strengthen and harmonize arbitration laws and practices, present significant opportunities for the further development of arbitration in the region. However, challenges remain, including the need to enhance the capacity and diversity of local arbitrators, improve the enforcement of arbitral awards, and address concerns about the cost and time efficiency of arbitration proceedings. Addressing these challenges will be crucial for realizing the full potential of international arbitration in Africa.

UK Supreme Court rules in favour of Mozambique in the "Tuna Bond" case
Canadian company Winshear Gold reaches USD 30 million settlement to end ICSID arbitration with Tanzania
Nigeria successfully challenges USD 11 billion award on grounds of fraud
DRC government's freeze on mining licenses threatens investor confidence
Nigeria enacts new arbitration act to cement its place as Africa's leading arbitration seat
Other relevant news

Some recent examples of our work in the region:

Representing companies in Africa
Acting for international contractors

To the Point 

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