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International Arbitration and Investor Protection in The African Energy and Mining Sectors

05 April 2024

Energy and mining projects are capital intensive requiring large amounts of money which is often beyond the reach of any host government, hence necessitating the presence of international investors in these sectors. The African continent is home to massive energy and mineral resources, and it has also in recent years attracted a significant amount of energy/mining related disputes in international arbitration.

This conference is therefore timely given the rising role of international 3 arbitration on the African continent. To put this into context, it is imperative to note that commercial disputes on the African continent will keep increasing given the anticipated economic development and industrialization in the region. For instance, the International Energy Agency (IEA) data reveals that the African continent will become the most populous region by 2023, as one-in-two people added to the world population between today and 2040 are set to be African. The anticipated boom in population growth, urbanisation and industrialisation will necessitate an increase in investments in the various sectors of the economy, hence increasing the risk for more commercial disputes- that can be resolved through international arbitration.

Indeed, we need to perceive international arbitration in the practical sense by connecting it to the different sectors of the economy. For instance, taking cognizance of the pertinent global challenges including climate change, energy transitions, famine, poverty and many others as stipulated in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs), we note that international arbitration should be evolving in order to address the disputes that are likely to arise in the process of achieving the UN SDGs. For instance, SDG 7 is focused on Energy Access while SDG 13 is focused on Climate Action. These two sectors are prone to more disputes which can be resolved through international arbitration.

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The African continent is at the centre of either contributing to tackling these global challenges or even receiving support to address the same. A case in point is the global energy crisis, which has seen many developed countries looking to Africa and the Global South for more fossil fuels including oil, gas and coal-as a way to ensure energy security. Additionally, in a bid to tackle climate change, the African continent is at the centre of supplying the critical minerals such as cobalt, that are essential for the clean technologies necessary for the energy transition. In essence, the continent is home to massive energy and mineral resources, which not only contribute to the economic development of the countries concerned, but they are also a source of commercial disputes that are often resolved through international arbitration. For example, according to the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), 130 parties from sub-Saharan Africa accounted for approximately 5 per cent of all parties in its 2019 caseload, with Nigerian (19), South African (13) and Mauritian (10) parties taking the lead.10 In 2020, energy disputes accounted for about 18 percent of the total case load of the International Court of Arbitration.11 For instance, according 4 to the 2019 records for the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA), African parties were involved in slightly more than 10 per cent of the cases (up from 8 per cent in 2018).

This conference therefore will provide an in-depth and comprehensive examination of international commercial arbitration in Africa, with a focus on energy and mining disputes. With the contribution from top-class speakers, the conference will provide indispensable update on the developments in the region. Topical discussions will be covered. The conference is also an opportunity to officially launch new chapters to a timely living reference book on ‘International Arbitration in the African Energy and Mining Sectors’, edited by Dr Victoria R Nalule and Professor Damilola Olawuyi. Consequently, the conference is organised into three main panels, reflecting the main themes addressed in the book including, the current trends in international arbitration; international arbitration as a source of resolving energy and mining disputes; and the future of international arbitration.

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April 5
9:00 am - 5:00 pm
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