Managing Alternative Dispute Resolution and International Commercial Litigation Within the Microcosm of Sub-Saharan Africa’s Business and Legal Culture


A region of great diversity, Sub-Saharan Africa (“SSA”) is burdened by and, in some instances, afflicted with a variety of socio-political and legal contexts. For instance, there is a mixture of authoritarian, military, and democratic administrations. Africa is also diverse in terms of its people, religion, normative values, colonial experience, political systems, economic systems, physical environment, and the cultural legacy of colonialism. Managing litigation and other legal issues in the U.S. could be challenging enough; doing the same in SSA is certainly a hair-raising adventure at best.

Conflict is an inevitable aspect of human interaction. It can, however, be prevented on some occasions and managed on others. Navigating conflicts successfully in SSA requires a combination of global experience, local knowledge, and cultural competence. While most western jurisdictions, including the U.S., have Uniform laws governing commercial transactions, the same is not true in most SSA countries. Litigation, regardless of where it rears its ugly head in SSA, could cause debilitating anxiety to both counsel and client. Disconcerting questions that often come to mind include: What is the lingua franca where the matter will be litigated? Will U.S. laws be applied? How long will it take for the matter to be resolved? Will the contract in place between the parties be enforced? Will it be interpreted the way it was written or will a local interpretation come into play and change the terms? Will corruption, which is endemic in this region, tilt the playing field and influence the decision of the foreign court?

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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