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The African Legal Services Facility (ALSF) and the Pan-African Lawyers Union (PALU) seminar on reinforcing capacity in international commercial disputes resolutions in the Northern Africa region opened today in Tunis. Opened by the African Development Bank’s Vice-President for Finance, Charles Boamah, on behalf of the President, the meeting is focusing on African Development Bank’s financial architecture as well as legal aspects of financing infrastructure projects from multilateral development banks’ perspective.
The objectives of the regional seminar include assessing and building capacity for complex international commercial negotiations in Africa; assess and building capacity for international commercial dispute resolutions as well as defending vulture fund litigations in Africa. Participants will also try to market the ALSF and motivate ratification of its statutes by African states that have not yet done so. Also, the gathering will build a data base of knowledgeable, skilled and experienced commercial lawyers in Africa.
Addressing more than 80 law practitioners from Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, Mauritania, Morocco and Libya, including the Chair of Tunis Bar Association, Chawki Tabib, and PALU’s Secretary General, Akin Akinbote, Mr. Boamah expressed the Bank’s gratitude to the Tunisian government for hosting the event, which in his view, “is timely for rule of law and democratic transition as well as good governance reasons.” He recognized the presence of the African Development Bank Board members, Abdelhak Benallegue (Algeria), Mohamed Mahroug (Morocco) and Sami Elbasser (Libya), as well as civil society organisations and other public and private sectors representatives.
Mr. Boamah also noted that as of December 2011, the Facility had approved projects to support African countries in key areas, including vulture fund litigations; negotiations of a Public Private Project agreement concessions and capacity building progammes on negotiations of complex commercial transactions. “This seminar constitutes the third pillar of the work of the Facility in ensuring that African lawyers develop capacity to enable them support their countries in negotiating complex commercial transactions as well as in litigation against vulture funds,” he emphasized.
Chawki Tabib, Tunis Bar President, expressed his gratitude to the Bank for its the key role in the continent’s development, as well as ALSF and PALU for organizing the seminar. He also stressed the role played by lawyerse in various parts of Africa, in particular in Tunisia during the Arab spring. “Vulture funds issue is a major national concern. Needless to encourage you to take advantage of complementarity between our counterparts from Sub-Saharan Africa and us,” he said.
ALSF’s Director, Stephen Karangizi, made a presentation on the Facility’s history, legal existence, institutional structure and project implementation. On extractive contracts, he said the lack of sound pre-contract legal advice had resulted in constant renegotiations of contracts and their outright cancellation, resulting in destabilizing and unattractive business environments in Regional member countries’ economy. He said that the “ALSF and PALU will extend similar seminars to all African countries to enhance law practices.” He also stressed the urgent need for additional contributions to the Facility in order to sustainably meet the increasing demands for assistance from member countries.
Commenting on the meeting, the ALSF management board chairperson, Moufida Srarfi, said that the programme of the meeting was consistent with the agreements between the Facility and PALU, with their objectives and the norms and principles of international and commercial law and the best practices of international development. She further affirmed: “The programme will strategically contribute to enhance law practices in Northern Africa.”
The seminar, the third of its kind after similar gatherings in Kigali and Cape Town, is being held six weeks after the Facility’s board was elected.