2023 AFRICAN BAR ASSOCIATION ANNUAL CONFERENCE
JOHANNESBURG SOUTH AFRICA
BUILDING THE LEGAL PROFESSION IN AFRICA UNDER THE AFRICAN CONTINENTAL FREE TRADE AGREEMENT (ACFTA)
The inception of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) ushers in renewed hope and opportunity for economic integration in Africa with the prospects of lifting millions out of the scourges of poverty and underdevelopment. Beyond the truism trade being a catalyst for productivity and innovation, the transcontinental initiative symbolized in the AfCFTA promises to bring the continent closer together like never before while helping build synergies and cooperation across a spectrum of fields. Yet the enactment of the trade deal also calls for critical reflections on core aspects and implications of implementing the AfCFTA within the evolving governance and commercial space of Africa. On the other hand, trade charters being quintessentially legal documents tend to rely heavily on the prevalence of a functional and viable cadre of legal professionals attuned to the vagaries of economic integration.
The African Bar Association is a professional body uniting lawyers across the African continent and its annual conference represents an apex gathering of the body designed to discuss concrete and emerging developments affecting the rule of law, legal profession and African development. The 2023 conference billed under the theme Building the Legal Profession under the African continental Free Trade Agreement is expected to assemble leading experts on law, the legal profession and Africa trade. Structured around functional topics of trade, the conference is expected to take a nuanced but critical view of African trade and the evolving regime under the AfCFTA with the view to evaluating current dynamics and prospects of the regime.
The International Steering committee of the Conference now invites submissions from interested persons on the underlisted sub-themes for consideration for presentation at the conference.
Submissions should typically contain the proposed topic to be presented, a short description of presentation (not exceeding 500 words, and a bio of the proposer.
Submissions should be sent to: email@example.com.
All submissions should reach the steering committee on a date not later than the 20th march 2023.
Prof. Kofi Abotsi
Co-Chair, International Steering Committee
1. Contemporary Issues Affecting the Legal Profession in Africa
This panel will focus on discussing issues affecting the legal profession in Africa and their myriad of implications for trade, good governance, legal professional development.
2. The African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) and the African Lawyer: The legal profession under the AfCFTA.
The panel will examine the implementation of the AfCFTA and the role of the African lawyer in that respect. It goes without saying that lawyers play a critical role in the success of any trading regime given that trade deals are fundamentally legal charters and the interpretation and enforcement of those agreements are a matter of the rule of law. The panel will therefore offer an opportunity for a situational review of the role of the legal profession under the nascent regime in Africa.
3. Anti-Corruption, the Rule of Law and the African continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA)
Corruption presents a major obstacle to the sustainability and coherent development of the AfCFTA and the governance framework of interstate commercial dealings in Africa in general. This panel will review the dynamics of corruption in Africa and within the context of the AfCFTA, and undertake a nuanced discussion on corruption as an existential delicacy that needs addressing if the AfCFTA is to succeed.
4. Climate Change, Sustainable Value Chains and the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).
The topicality of climate change in contemporary global governance conversations and certainly trade can hardly be overemphasized. In the case of Africa, poor harvesting and extractive techniques and policies can exacerbate the already deteriorating situation with resource depletion, climate change and its consequences on the continent. This panel will examine the issue of value chains and climate change under the AfCFTA within the broader framework of existing national and continental initiatives to combat the menace and how to ensure that the ends of trade do not have to compromise the values of intergenerational equity.
5. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Emerging Continental Legal Practice.
The growth of AI in industrial life and its disruptive e ect on professionals in general presents an issue for consideration. Particularly within the scope of legal process outsourcing and aspects of legal practice deemed ministerial, the threat of AI as a market appropriation factor, needs to be carefully examined and responded to. This panel will undertake an excursive review of the emerging impact of AI in legal practice and how African lawyers can both adjust their practices but also leverage on the inevitable intervention of AI in the practice of law in Africa.
6. The Legal Academy Panel: restructuring Legal Training to be Responsive to Africa’s needs: The changing Legal Practice in Post-Covid Africa
This panel will discuss the state and future of legal education in Africa. With trade in services under the Africa promising to reduce and possibly eliminate licensing restrictions on professionals across Africa, the legal profession may be at something of a crossroads and there is the need to reflect on the harmonization of professional training on the continent. Particularly in the area of legal tradition diversity, there is the need to take stock of the issue of training and distortions in the various traditions and how conflicts in perspectives and orientations of these traditions undermine the prospects of the economic integration emerging under the AfCFTA.
7. Gender Mainstreaming in Africa Legal Practice
This panel is structured to take a broad view of the gender disparity situation in legal practice in Africa. While women are adequately represented at the entry level of the legal profession, evidence shows that the number of female lawyers dwindles as an assessment is done up the ladder of professional practice. What accounts for this and the complex issues of discriminations and obstacles women face in legal practice will engage the attention of this panel as it seeks to unravel the inherent sub-themes of the panel
8. Overcoming Trade Litigation Deficit: Experience from World Trade Organization (WTO)
The low level of African representation in trade litigation has been a source of worry for concerned observers over the years. While a number of reasons have been offered for this including the issue of capacity, this reality holds a chilling prospect for the AfCFTA and the potential for foreign lawyers dominating litigation under the AfCFTA. The panel will examine the situation of trade litigation, capacity issues, as well as prevalent infrastructure for an effective regime on dispute resolution, and other solutions on the way forward.
9. Military Panel: Resurgence of Military Intervention in African Politics: Positive and Negative Roles of the Military & Lawyers
Recent spate in the incidence of coup d’etats in Africa calls for renewed conversations around the subject of governance and political instability. This is crucial for the economic and commercial prospects of African countries as these tend to have serious consequences for investments and general development on the continent. The panel will examine the causes and impact of military interventions in African politics and situate the conversation within the emerging incidences of coups.
10. Global Geopolitics and African Alignments
This panel will look at the issue of global geopolitics and the place of Africa and its development. More specifically, the panel will cover the following spectrum of topics, among others:
- The Role of African Union
- The Horn of Africa (Ethiopia and Eritrea) Human Rights interventions, United States Sanctions, Peace Agreements, and its implementation.
- DRC, Rwanda, Burundi and Human Right in the Great Lakes Region.
- Terrorism in Africa and the International Criminal Court (ACC).
- United States Legislation Countering Malign Russian Activities in Africa Act, H.R. 7311-117th Congress (2021-2022).
- Zimbabwe and Unilateral Coercive Measures and Resistance to Sanctions. -The Right to Peace under International Law.
11. Panel of Eminent Personalities: Mbeki and Wamkele on the future of African Trade and Commercial Integration.
Special panel discussing Africa rising, trade, investment, governance &
12. Adjudication and Arbitration Panel: Emerging Developments in Africa Commercial arbitration and adjudication
There has been an increasing resort to the use of arbitration in commercial disputes on the African continent within the last many years.Yet the complexity of the political economy surrounding the use and practice of arbitration has meant that disputes resolved through arbitration have often taken place outside the continent and superintended by actors who are hardly African. This has dire implications for the African legal market and lawyers on the continent. Even more crucially, the conduct of arbitration outside the continent with minimal African participation implies that the capacity of African lawyers would remain untapped and undeveloped jeopardizing the future of arbitration on the continent. This panel will examine developing trends in African arbitration practices and explore ways to make Africa an attractive option for commercial arbitration especially under the AfCFTA.
13. Issues in Conflict of Interest and Cross Border Legal Practice in Africa: Local Practitioner vs. Foreign Firms in Africa Legal Practice
The inception of the AfCFTA would necessarily usher in a period of increased cross-border transactions with its concomitant need for legal services across national borders. On the other hand, the likely prospect of inter-firm collaborations on the continent and from without also implies that issues in conflict of interest and other ethical concerns will grow in complexity and incidence. This panel will take a pragmatic view of the issues involved and suggest an evolutionary path moving forward.
14. Access to Justice: Emerging issues and challenges in Justice Administration
This panel will discuss the complicated subject of access to justice in Africa. From prison reform to the cost of legal services, the panel will be expected to undertake a thorough review of the challenges to equitable justice administration and complexity of the rule of law in the African context. Added to the issue of poverty and corruption, the panel will be expected to take a comprehensive view and stock of the situation and suggest solutions.
15. Communication and Africa Development
This panel will look to the subject of the importance of communications and appropriate regulation of rights under the AfCFTA. Thus, issues such as telecommunication infrastructure, intellectual property rights regulation, and allied themes will be discussed with the view to situating the emergent regime within best practice models around the world.
16. Tax Implications of the AfCFTA & African Development
A key feature of the AfCFTA is the removal of tariffs and other structural barriers to trade. While hailed as a watershed intervention in the bid to improve the levels of trade among African countries, critics have argued that the removal of tariffs will come with major loss of revenue government often generated through taxes at the borders. What is the projected loss of income in tax revenue consequent on the implementation of the AfCFTA? And what lessons can countries on the continent learn from experiences elsewhere? Are there other instruments of taxation that can be called in aid to lessen the impact of the removal of taxes on the income expectations of countries to the AfCFTA? This panel will examine the complexity of these questions and suggest pathways for revenue expectations of member countries.
17. Cross-Border Movement of Goods & Services in Africa: State of the Regulatory & Infrastructure Support for Air Transportation
18. Contemporary Trends in Litigation: The Increasing Rise in the Use of eDiscovery
The exponential growth in the use of the internet and computers in general in business and other aspects of life has meant that business and commercial litigation too has come to be characterized by a heavy reliance on evidence created or originating from electronic sources. This has serious implications for the gathering, storage, retrieval and production of evidence in trials and the extent of professional competence in that vein will significantly shape the outcome of trials. Yet, it is also a truism that as a genus of admissible evidence, electronic evidence can be tasking in terms of its discoverability and management thereby necessitating the use of trace assistance and other legal process outsourcing in other developed jurisdictions where resort to electronic evidence has been the norm for sometime. This panel will review contemporary trends in electronic discovery and opportunities and dynamics for the use of eDiscovery in trials particularly within the context of the AfCFTA and commercial trials on the continent.