The Commission focuses on four objectives, to (i) increase the presence of ICC in Africa, (ii) promote the appointment of more African arbitrators in ICC disputes, (iii) facilitate the ICC’s involvement in the development of African jurisdictions, and (iv) collaborate with ICC YAF (Young Arbitrators Forum) to contribute to the development of the next generation of African practitioners. In pursuit of its objectives, the Africa Commission participates in a wide range of activities across Africa, including conferences, trainings, workshops, and webinars.

The members of the Commission are drawn from current and former ICC Court members, and from the ICC Commission on Arbitration and ADR. The 24 members from 15 African countries together represent all the legal systems on the continent. The diversity in membership ensures that ICC receives valuable feedback from users of dispute resolution services from across the African continent.

The members of the Commission are, in alphabetical order of their countries of origin: Nadine Dossou Sakponou (Benin), Achille Ngwanza (Cameroon), Joachim Bile-Aka (Côte d’Ivoire), Mohamed S. Abdel Wahab (Egypt), Leyou Tameru (Ethiopia), David Kwabena Adu Kusi (Ghana), Nene Amegatcher (Ghana), Marietta Brew Appiah-Opong (Ghana), Njeri Kariuki (Kenya), Modibo Touré (Mali), Salim Moollan (Mauritius), Funke Adekoya (Nigeria), Babatunde Ajibade (Nigeria), Adedoyin Rhodes-Vivour (Nigeria), Dorothy Udeme Ufot (Nigeria), Mouhamed Kebe (Senegal), Des Williams (South Africa), Mahlape Sello (South Africa), Madeline Kimei (Tanzania) and Martial Akakpo (Togo).

Ndanga Kamau (Kenya) is the Commission’s inaugural president. The Secretary of the Commission was initially Sami Houerbi, then Director for Africa & the Middle East, and is now Diamana Diawara, the new Director for ICC Arbitration and ADR Services in Africa.

Arbitration conferences in Africa

In addition to the annual ICC Africa Conference organised by the ICC Secretariat’s Events team,1 the Commission organised the following conferences:

  • In July 2019, the Commission hosted the ICC Tanzania Arbitration Day in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The event focused on the expedited procedure provisions (EPP) and emergency arbitration. The day after the conference, members of the Commission met with Chief Justice of Tanzania, Prof Ibrahim Juma, to discuss ways in which the ICC could support capacity building in the Tanzanian judiciary.
  • In October 2019, the Commission and ICC Ghana hosted the ICC Ghana Arbitration Day in Accra, Ghana. Afterwards, Alexander Fessas (Secretary General, ICC Court; Director, ICC Dispute Resolution Services), Marietta Appiah-Opong (member of the Commission and former Attorney General of Ghana), and Ndanga Kamau met with the then Chief Justice of Ghana, Ms Sophia Akuffo. The Honourable Chief Justice briefed the delegation on the activities of the Ghanaian judiciary, and expressed interest in ICC’s contribution to capacity building of Ghanaian judges. The ICC delegation also met with potential users of ICC dispute resolution services. The event coincided with an ICC YAF event organised by Laura Alakija (ICC YAF Representative) which focused on the impact of the Singapore Convention.
  • In February 2020, the Commission held the ICC Senegal Arbitration Day in Dakar, Senegal. The event was held in French and included amongst its panellists Mouhamed Kebe, Nadine Dossou Sakponou, Joachim Bile-Aka, Martial Akakpo, and Diamana Diawara.

Collaboration with the Belt and Road Initiative (‘BRI’) Commission

The ICC created the Belt and Road Initiative Commission (‘ICC BRI Commission’) to promote and develop ICC’s existing services to support Belt and Road disputes. One of the BRI Commission’s objectives is to engage with potential users across all Belt and Road territories. Africa is one such territory. It therefore made sense for the two commissions to collaborate on promoting the use of ICC Dispute Resolution Services for BRI disputes in Africa. Starting in 2019, the commissions started collaborating on a series of events that highlight the types of BRI investments in Africa, and discuss salient issues on disputes arising out of these investments.

The first joint event was held in December 2019. Justin D’Agostino, then Chair of the BRI Commission, and Ndanga Kamau gave opening remarks at the event. Africa Commission members Mohamed Abdel Wahab and Mohamed Kebe, were joined by other expert panellists to discuss the promise of BRI investments in Africa, and the challenges and opportunities associated with these investments.

The second joint event was held in June 2021 to coincide with the 5th ICC Africa Conference on International Arbitration. Speakers at the event included Robert Pé and Susan Munro, co-chairs of the BRI Commission, and Diamana Diawara. The first panel, moderated by Ndanga Kamau, focused on managing disputes arising out of BRI projects. Anthony Sinclair and Wei Sun shared their experiences on advising clients investing in Africa as part of the BRI investments. Eru Takem spoke about a large project realised through Chinese investments, but which is not part of the BRI. The second panel, moderated by Baptiste Rigaudeau, explored issues that could give rise to BRI disputes in Africa. Susan Munro gave an update on the BRI, Ahmed Ibrahim spoke about the Smart City project in Africa, and Zhijing Huang spoke about the health highway and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines.

There are many opportunities for the two commissions to collaborate. In addition to organising joint events, the commissions could develop a guidance note on managing disputes related to BRI investments in Africa. This note could highlight features of ICC dispute resolution services that make the ICC an ideal institution to resolve these disputes.

Training for African Judges

In 2020, the Commission started partnering with ICCA and the African Arbitration Association (AfAA) to host trainings on the New York Convention for African judges in English and French. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the trainings, which were originally designed to be delivered in-person, were adapted for virtual delivery.

1. A workshop for the Ghanaian judiciary on 29 June - 1 July 2020. Judges from the High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court attended the training. The Judicial Training Institute (JTI) of Ghana was the local partner.

2. A workshop for the Rwandan judiciary on 26 March 2021. The Honourable Chief Justice and President of the Supreme Court of Rwanda, Dr Faustin Nteziryayo, made the opening remarks at the training. Judges from all levels of the Rwandan judiciary attended the training. The Kigali International Arbitration Centre (KIAC) was the local partner.

3. A workshop for the Cameroonian judiciary on 6 May 2021. It was attended by members of the Cameroonian judiciary from across the country. The Organisation for the Harmonisation of Business Law (OHADA) and the Association for the Promotion of Arbitration in Africa (APAA) were the local partners.

4. A training to be held for the Tanzanian judiciary in late June 2021. The local partner will be the Institute of Judicial Administration Lushoto. This training will be a follow-up to the meeting with The Honourable Chief Justice of Tanzania, Prof Ibrahim Juma in July 2019.

These short online training sessions are an excellent way to highlight the role of state courts in enforcing arbitration agreements and awards. They could be complemented by comprehensive in-person sessions addressing other ways in which state courts support arbitration.

Webinar Series on ICC practice in Africa

In late 2020 and early 2021, the Commission organised six webinars in the four main official languages in Africa: Arabic, English, French and Portuguese. Hosting the webinars in these languages highlighted the diversity in jurisdictions across Africa, and showcased ICC expertise and experience in administering disputes in multiple languages.

  1. Webinar on the use of African seats and appointment of African arbitrators in ICC Arbitrations (English), moderated by Ndanga Kamau and with Funke Adekoya, Salim Moollan, and Alexis Mourre.
  2. Webinar on ICC Arbitration in Francophone Africa (French), moderated by Sami Houerbi and with Diamana Diawara, Mouhamed Kebe, and Sylvie Bebohi Ebongo (HBE Avocats, Cameroon/France).
  3. Webinar on ICC Arbitration in Lusophone Africa (Portuguese), moderated by Rafaella Menezes de Magalhães (Deputy Counsel, ICC Secretariat) and with Ana Serra e Moura (Deputy Secretary General, ICC Secretariat), Tomás Timbane, and Eduardo Damião Gonçalves (Vice President, ICC Court, Brazil).
  4. Webinar on multi-party and multi-contract disputes in ICC Arbitration (English), moderated by Isaiah Bozimo (former YAF Representative, Nigeria) and with Mohamed Abdel Wahab, Alexander Fessas, and Ndanga Kamau.
  5. Webinar on highlights from the new ICC Rules 2021 (Arabic), moderated by Sami Houerbi and with Sana Belaid (ICC Court Member, Algeria), Mark Demitry (then Deputy Counsel, ICC Secretariat), and Girgis Abdel Shahid (ICC Court Member, Egypt).
  6. Webinar on award scrutiny in ICC Arbitration (English), moderated by Laura Alakija (ICC YAF Representative, Nigeria) and with Samaa Haridi (ICC Court Member (alternate), Egypt), Aurélien Zuber (Counsel, ICC Secretariat), and Galina Zukova (ICC Court Member, Latvia)

Virtual visits of African arbitrators to the ICC Secretariat

The visits – co-organised with ICC National Committees in Africa – aim to (i) introduce African arbitrators to members of the ICC Secretariat and (ii) help members of the Secretariat to map the expertise and experience of African arbitrators, which should increase the number of African arbitrators appointed to ICC disputes. Also, the opportunity to interact directly with members of the Secretariat will give African arbitrators a better understanding of ICC’s functions and processes. The first visit, organised in conjunction with ICC Nigeria, took place in April 2021. Before the end of the year, visits are planned with ICC National Committees in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, and South Africa.

Appointment of a Regional Director in Africa

In January 2021, ICC appointed Diamana Diawara as Director for Africa, ICC Arbitration and ADR Services. In her role, Diamana is building capacity in Africa and enhancing awareness and access to ICC dispute resolution services across the continent. She closely works with the Commission and ICC’s Africa Action Network, which brings together ICC national committee and chamber of commerce leaders to support the private sector in Africa.2

Looking to the future

At the end of June 2021, I will step down as President of the ICC Africa Commission; I will be succeeded by Thierry Ngoga of Rwanda, who will join the ICC Court in the 2021-2024 term.

It has been an honour and privilege to serve in this position at a time when ICC is increasing its efforts in Africa. As foreign direct investment and cross-border transactions increase in Africa so too will the number of high-value disputes involving African parties and projects. ICC is well-placed to provide effective and efficient services to resolve these disputes.

The ICC Court, under the leadership of Alexis Mourre, demonstrated its strong commitment to Africa by setting up the ICC Africa Commission and appointing a Director dedicated to Africa. This commitment will continue under the leadership of incoming ICC President Claudia Salomon. Diamana Diawara and Thierry Ngoga will spearhead the ICC’s efforts in Africa. Looking to the future, ICC users in Africa should expect ICC to set up a case management office in Africa and African practitioners should expect more Africans to be appointed as arbitrators in ICC disputes.