Assessing the efficacy of forum selection agreements in Commonwealth Africa
Author: Theophilus Edwin Coleman
Affiliations: BA LLB LLM LLD; Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Centre for International and Comparative Labour and Social Security Law (CICLASS), University of Johannesburg, Republic of South Africa.
Source: Journal of Comparative Law in Africa, Volume 7 Issue 2, p. 1 – 40
Any international commercial agreement has the potential to be the subject of a dispute. In resolving international commercial disputes, parties to a contract are at liberty to choose any dispute resolution mechanism that best serves and meets their commercial interests. Generally, parties to an international commercial contract may resort to courtroom litigation or choose an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) mechanism as a method of resolving their transnational disputes. Underlying almost every international commercial contract, therefore, is a very primary question about where, by whom and how the parties prefer their disputes to be litigated. The response to this question depends on whether parties prefer traditional courtroom litigation, or an ADR mechanism. In most instances, countries put in place dispute resolution regimes that seek to afford contracting parties the liberty to submit their disputes to a foreign forum or an arbitral tribunal for legal redress and/or a remedy. However, while the efficacy of resolving international disputes through arbitration has garnered immense international and domestic support, the submission of disputes by parties to a foreign forum through a forum selection agreement is regarded with much ambivalence in most countries. This article assesses the efficacy of forum selection agreements in Commonwealth Africa. It appraises the judicial approach of courts in Commonwealth African countries relative to the essence and effect of forum selection agreements. This article argues and calls for a higher degree of judicial commitment to the juridical choices of private individuals who are party to an international commercial contract, especially with regard to forum selection agreements.