Reflecting the continued growth in the use of arbitration in Africa, Global Arbitration Review (GAR) hosted its first-ever ‘GAR Live’ event dedicated to the continent on 9 December 2020. Relabelled ‘GAR Interactive’ due to its virtual setting, it brought together some of the world’s leading arbitrators, practitioners, academics and stakeholders in the African arbitration market.
Stewarts was a sponsor of the inaugural event. International Arbitration partner and Africa disputes specialist, Daniel Wilmot, spoke on the closing panel.
Chaired by Mr Mohamed Abdel Wahab and Ms Ndanga Kamau, the event was built around three panels exploring current hot topics in the practice of arbitration on the continent.
The first, moderated by Mr Babatunde Fagbohunlu, S.A.N., considered the theme of virtual hearings and what challenges specific to Africa they presented. Drawing views from in-house counsel and private practice lawyers, the panel explored a variety of subjects including cybersecurity, the necessary infrastructural requirements and the role of witness evidence.
Following a networking break in which attendees were randomly selected and allocated to breakout rooms, the masses reconvened with the second panel moderated by the event chairs. Considering the topic of decision-making in arbitrations with African parties, the panellists examined what, if any, of the flexible features of international arbitration required adaptation to better suit the African market. Touted examples included assessing the value of legal precedent, the approach to arbitrator reasoning in their awards and the role of the expert.
The day ended with the ‘GAR Live Debate’, in what has become somewhat of a popular tradition as a way for GAR to bring events to a close in its ‘GAR Live’ series. The motion was “Arbitrations between African parties must have African seats”. Emotive and controversial in equal measure, the motion was proposed by Daniel Wilmot, and Professor Emilia Onyema, Professor in International Commercial Law of the School of Law at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) University in London. The motion was opposed by Mr Fui Tsikata, a partner at Reindorf Chambers in Accra (Ghana), and Mr Bahaa Ezzelarab of BonelliErede’s Cairo (Egypt) office.
The debate was assiduously judged by Ms Lucy Reed, arbitrator and member of Arbitration Chambers in New York (USA), and Ms Funke Adekoya, S.A.N., a partner at AELEX in Lagos (Nigeria). The lively debate saw passionate advocacy and arguments touching on topics such as the preparedness of Africa as a venue for arbitration, the hurdle of aligning perceptions with reality and the fundamental concept of party autonomy. After the judges deliberated and shared their views, the task of choosing the victor was put to the public vote, with the opposers given the win.
Commenting on the day, Daniel said:
“The quality of speakers, numbers of attendees and level of thought leadership demonstrated today underlines just how important international arbitration is to Africa. I am delighted that GAR has recognised that fact in launching a ‘GAR Live’ dedicated to the continent. Certainly, today very much felt like an event for Africa, by Africans, but on a global platform. As a law firm with a recognised and in-depth experience of advising on international disputes in the region, I am proud that Stewarts could play its part in helping to launch this annual event. I am in no doubt that it will become one of the go-to conferences on the continent. Sincere thanks to GAR and the chairpersons for inviting me to contribute to today’s affair.”
A record of the event speakers and panels can be found here.
A video recording of the ‘GAR Live Debate’ has been produced by GAR and is available here (no GAR subscription required).
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