Africa’s dispute resolution landscape has long been dominated by litigation, but the use of alternative mechanisms such as arbitration and mediation is becoming more prevalent.




8 June 23

South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Egypt and Rwanda all have established arbitration centres, with Cairo and Johannesburg considered the most popular arbitral seats on the continent, according to a 2020 survey run by the SOAS University of London.

Mediation is also starting to gain traction in countries such as Kenya, which recently introduced mandatory court-annexed mediation as part of its broader alternative dispute resolution framework. This gives the courts discretionary powers to send certain disputes to a mediator and will help to reduce backlogs in the court system.

Africa Legal recently interviewed leading disputes lawyers either based in Africa or who typically work on Africa-related matters, to discuss key trends that are impacting the development of the continent’s alternative dispute resolution landscape.

Governments Seek to Keep African Disputes in Africa
While arbitral seats often remain outside the continent, some African countries are increasingly being seen as a viable choice for arbitration venues, says ALN Kenya partner Aisha Abdallah.

African governments are increasingly concerned about arbitration costs and perceptions that they won’t be treated fairly by arbitration centres outside the continent, says Aisha Abdallah, partner and Head of Dispute Resolution at ALN Kenya.

“There is a political desire to repatriate disputes to Africa and ensure that at least between African parties, they can agree to house their disputes in a neutral seat within the continent,” said Aisha. “That can result in significant cost savings and give reassurance that parties won’t face bias against them for being African.”

With this in mind, African governments and parties are seeking more choice and flexibility when it comes to arbitration seats and venues. While the seat might be a traditional institution such as the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA) or the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), there is an increasing trend for the venue to be in Africa.

The Race is on to become Africa’s Top Arbitration Hub
Several jurisdictions are vying to be the go-to arbitration centre in Africa, says ALN Nigeria managing partner Olujoke Aliu.

A number of African countries, including Nigeria, are in a race to become known as the hub of arbitration on the continent, says Olujoke Aliu, managing partner at ALN Nigeria.

“There is a desire to create an environment and a legal structure that keeps the resolution of disputes that arise in Africa, or are connected to Africa, in Africa,” said Olujoke. “We’re seeing a number of jurisdictions make revisions and amendments to current arbitration laws to ensure they are reflective of current realities and are comparable to countries like the US and the UK.” For example, Nigeria is in the process of enacting a new arbitration and conciliation act, while Sierra Leone passed a new arbitration law, she said.

This push to strengthen the arbitration and broader dispute resolution backdrop is being driven by the need to improve access to justice and encourage foreign direct investment so that investors feel comfortable in the event that a dispute arises.

In a report by the Ministry of Justice UK in partnership with Africa Legal, ALN Kenya Partner and Head of Dispute Resolution Aisha Abdallah and ALN Nigeria, Managing Partner discuss Africa’s growing dispute resolution landscape.