As Africa prepares to commence Trading under the Continental Free Trade Agreement, it will inevitably give rise to potential disputes concerning the rights and obligations under the AfCFTA Agreement.
The Protocol on Dispute Settlement establishes a mechanism for the amicable resolution of such disputes.
In accordance with that Protocol, aggrieved State Parties can request that a dispute be resolved by a panel.
Currently, only State Parties can request such dispute resolution. Private parties from State Parties can petition the appropriate institutions in their governments to launch an action if they consider their rights have been affected. Third Parties can, if the disputing parties agree, also be heard and make written submissions during the adjudication process.
Before a matter can be heard by a panel, State Parties are obliged to first hold confidential consultations to find an amicable solution. If an amicable solution is not achieved, the Dispute Settlement Body will establish a formal
Panel, composed of 3 to 5 persons selected from an Indicative Roster of Panelists to adjudicate the dispute. Parties to the dispute may appeal a Panel report to the Appellate Body, i.e., the AfCFTA tribunal of final instance.
The Secretary General of the AfCFTA says the Continent has succeeded in operationalizing its Dispute Settlement Mechanism.
“Dispute settlement mechanism and operationalizing it is very important, we want to express a commitment to Africans, to African business people that we’re committed to the rule of trade law, where a dispute arising in the context of trade, cross-border trade the AfCFTA rules will be applied and the dispute settlement mechanism and its operationalization is specifically for that purpose so it’s a tremendous success,” he said.
Approximately 20 percent of international disputes are resolve under the ICC rules, as disputes with states and state-controlled entities. When it comes to Africa the percentage is even higher because the state and state agencies are involved in international trade and projects where inevitably disputes arise.
He added: “What Ghana can learn from others is basically the process they should always be involved and hire good counsel ensure that the counsel, the state counsel is properly prepared to manage the proceedings and basically to understand from the beginning that the process being involved is very critical.”
The International Chamber of Commerce’s International Court of Arbitration is the leading dispute resolution court in the world hence its interest in building the capacity of governments in that area.
The ICC believes that training lawyers of governments and SOEs of Ghana adequately positions the state to secure a robust and resilient economy in the wake of the AfCFTA.