SOAS-University of London held its Fourth SOAS Arbitration in Africa Conference co-hosted with the Kigali International Arbitration Center (KIAC) at the Kigali Convention Center in Rwanda from May 2nd – 4th, 2018.
Armooh-Williams, PLLC was an active participant of this year’s conference, under the theme “The Role of Arbitration Practitioners in the Development of Arbitration in Africa.” This conference was a continuation of the SOAS-Africa Arbitration Research Project to transform and enhance the use of arbitration as the preferred choice of dispute resolution mechanism in Africa.
This year’s conference opened with a highlight of the SOAS Arbitration in Africa Report. The report is the result of a survey taken by African arbitration practitioners. The purpose is for African arbitration practitioners to provide original data and information to challenge the misconception that there is a lack of expertise and skilled African Arbitration practitioners. The goal of this report is to bolster trust in the capability of African arbitration practitioners.
The themes of the panels placed the practice of African arbitrators at the heart of this conference. Ms. Joyce Williams, the managing partner at Armooh-Williams PLLC, anchored the two-day meeting, conducted in an open forum format, with six moderators and about 28 lead discussants. The Conference was led by Dr. Emilia Onyema of SOAS, and Dr. Mohamed S. Abdel Wahab of Zulficar Partners gave the keynote address. Lively discussions led by known arbitration practitioners focused on : (1) the role of the arbitration practitioner as an administrator of an arbitral center; (2) race and gender in the appointment of international arbitrators; (3) a debate between more experienced arbitrators and younger arbitration practitioners; (4) teachers and trainers in the practice of arbitration; (5) other roles available for practitioners in arbitration; and (5) lessons learned from seasoned African arbitrators.
Attendees of the conference argued that while there is still a lot of capacity building to be done in the training and establishment of arbitration centers across Africa, African arbitration practitioners are exceptionally well trained and equipped to take on international arbitration cases, in particular, those from their backyard. Furthermore, there was a broad agreement among participants and lead discussants that there is the need to urgently promote and develop domestic arbitration and intra-African arbitration to build capacity and to allow African arbitration practitioners to hone their skills and train a new generation of African attorneys and legal scholars to be competitive in the international market.
At Armooh-Williams we acknowledge the increasing importance of international arbitration in cross-border transactions and support capacity building and promotion of the use of arbitration in Africa. Experience is a significant factor in choosing arbitrators and counsels to meet the expectation of clients. One way of gaining experience is through collaborations among arbitration practitioners across the globe. State support is another area where African arbitration practitioners can gain the necessary experience to continue their development as arbitration practitioners. However, African arbitration practitioners cannot overlook the fact that arbitration goes beyond the local and is increasingly an international practice.
Joyce Williams and Nathania Ustun of Armooh-Williams, PLLC were extremely pleased to have been part of this significant and ongoing SOAS Conference series on Arbitration in Africa, and look forward to next year’s conference in Khartoum, Sudan!