Opinion: Will the African continental free trade area’s dispute settlement protocol be adequate to ensure compliance?
Author Yakubu Nagu
Affiliations: PhD candidate and researcher, Centre for Comparative Law in Africa, Faculty of Law, University of Cape Town
Source: Journal of Comparative Law in Africa, Volume 7 Issue 1, p. 120 – 134
The success of any regional integration or development initiative depends on actors within that initiative operating smoothly and with some degree of efficiency. A dispute settlement framework guarantees efficiency by providing a means by which friction between actors can be reduced. African integration initiatives always provide for a framework for conflict management. The African Continental Free Trade Area (‘AfCFTA’) initiative is no different as it provides a mechanism by which disputes arising in the course of deepening integration under the free trade initiative can be resolved. The agreement creating the AfCFTA includes a Protocol on Rules and Procedures on the Settlement of Disputes. While the broad importance of this protocol to the initiative cannot be over-emphasised, how the dispute settlement system that it creates will function, as well as the potential of its successful operation, appears to be riddled with ambiguity and shrouded in doubt respectively. This is especially because the efficacy of other regional dispute settlement systems in Africa has been undermined by myriad issues ranging from technical inefficiencies to the absence of political will, often manifesting in outright non-compliance. This article primarily appraises the AfCFTA’s Protocol on Rules and Procedures on the Settlement of Disputes and comments on the adequacy of certain provisions.