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AFCFTA Secretariat Establishes Court to Resolve Trade Disputes

Wamkele Mene, Secretary-General of the African Continental Free Trade Area Secretariat, has said his outfit has established a court that will serve as a dispute resolution forum.

The move according to Wamkele Mene is hinged on inspiring confidence among traders, offer clarity and certainty of trade deals as they use the platform.

Addressing participants at the Africa Trade Roundtable discussion organised by the University of Professional Studies, Accra (UPSA) Law School, the Secretary-General explained the Dispute Settlement Body will function as a full-court with right mechanisms and structures in place.

“The most important aspect of the protocols is resolution of disputes which arise under the AfCFTA. We know that there will be disputes, but the key thing is how to resolve those disputes. Right up until this agreement entered into force, when a trader wanted to access their legal rights the only forum, they had in Africa was the country where the issue took place. Otherwise, you had to go through the World Trade Organisation (WTO) or to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to have that matter adjudicated and resolved.”

He clarified, “We have now, for the first time, established a forum for resolution of trade investment, intellectual property rights through this protocol of dispute settlement. It will function like any other court of law. There is a dispute settlement body where a complainant will bring their dispute, and the body will consider the merits of the dispute and establish a panel that we call the court of first incidence.”

“If you don’t like the ruling of the panel, you of course have the right to take it for review, which is the court of final incidence, and a panel body will be established to consider the merits of the review. And so, it is a very elaborate and comprehensive dispute settlement mechanism that is really at the heart of legal certainty and predictability of market,” Mene assured.

Vice President Mahamudu Bawumiaon his part touted the move as one that will stir trust and boost confidence among member-states within the continental free trade area.

“For state parties to have full confidence in implementation of the AfCFTA, a robust dispute settlement mechanism from the protocol on rules and procedures for settlement of disputes must be put in place within the shortest possible time. We need a rules-based avenue for the resolution of disputes,” Bawumia pointed.