Opinion: Will the African continental free trade area’s dispute settlement protocol be adequate to ensure compliance?

Author Yakubu Nagu

ISSN: 2521-2605
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.