ALSF seeks to address the capacity gap in contract negotiations

20/05/2014
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In only four years and with a seed fund of US $15 million the African Legal Support Facility (ALSF) has built a reputation as the go-to facility for African countries looking to negotiate or renegotiate complex commercial contracts.

Affiliated with the African Development Bank, the AFLS provides legal technical assistance in the negotiation of contracts and creates synergies between the private sector and African countries. It mainly handles cases around sovereign debt litigation and commercial contracts, particularly in the extractive industries and large-scale infrastructure projects. With 56 members (57 including recently Lesotho that became a member today), 44 from Africa, the facility also plays the role of advisor to governments on over 40 projects in Africa, representing US $14 billion.

This year’s annual ALSF meeting brought together leaders from various African countries to discuss the role of ALSF and the benefits yielded from their partnership with the facility. Ministers from Niger, Guinea and the Democratic Republic of Congo shared their experiences on working with ALSF highlighting the importance of the facility in filling a vital capacity gap.

“We are usually told that our problems are a result of poor governance, but I would argue that they are also a result of lack of capacity in various areas. This capacity gap is made apparent in contracts negotiations that usually involve seasoned negotiators on the opposite end of the table and less competent negotiators on our end and results in unfavourable contracts,” explained Kerfalla Yansané, Minister of State, Minister for Mining and Geology, Republic of Guinea.

According to Kalidou Gadio, General Counsel of the African Development Bank Group, the capacity gap can be addressed through the joint effort of the member states in supporting ALSF’s work. He also urged governments not to be afraid to use international law firms competent in negotiating complex commercial contracts.

Gadio was quick to point out that that there is still a lot to be done in facilitating the work of ALSF. “The initial idea was that African countries would eventually support the work of ASLF and reduce its reliance on foreign assistance, but that has not been the case,” he said.