Widely recognised in Africa and globally for his exemplary work and expertise in dispute resolution, Senior Counsel John Ohaga is well respected when it comes to all things arbitral related.
Ohaga, who holds an impressive CV, credits updated arbitration legislation, trained and certified arbitrators, as well as the growth of arbitration institutions in many African countries for having contributed to the utilisation and awareness of arbitration as a dispute resolution mechanism.
He says, given the opportunity, African arbitrators can provide the same skill set and quality of service as their Western and Eastern counterparts.
“Practitioners in Europe and the Americas and perhaps across Singapore and Hong Kong have great opportunities to practise arbitration on a more frequent basis and therefore hone their skills. It also means that arbitration institutions are better able to fund the acquisition of infrastructure to have better hearing rooms and other facilities that would make holding an arbitration hearing comfortable, efficient and effective. Africa is playing catch up, because we do not have the same opportunities that practitioners in those jurisdictions have.”
Ohaga maintains that there should be a medley of stakeholders who advocate for using an African centre for arbitration.
He uses Kenya as a successful example, where the former attorney general issued a memorandum that required every state corporation entering a contractual relationship, to designate the Nairobi Centre for International Arbitration as the institution under whose auspices a dispute would be governed in the event any occurred. This move shines the spotlight on the country as a venue and then a seat.
Ohaga, who was recently appointed to the board of the International Council for Commercial Arbitration (ICCA), says his role is mainly to promote African arbitration and ensure that the ICCA establishes a greater presence on the continent so that it can be globally aligned.
He goes on to advise on how one can become a member of ICCA and how another organisation, the African Arbitration Academy, is training the next generation of arbiters.
The conversation wraps up with Ohaga discussing key trends that are shaping the future of commercial arbitration, and how the jurisprudence that flows out of courts can define whether or not Africa will be considered a safe seat.
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