It was reported that before the operating plant was due to operate in 2008, Egypt implemented new measures requiring the Arabian Cement Company to pay additional licensing and electricity fees. The essence of the case concerned the Egyptian authorities failure to provide gas and electricity supply to the cement plant, as well as the denial of justice by the Egyptian judiciary. Claimants consequently requested USD 236 Million in damages.
The focus of the Conference was to promote Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) as a viable mechanism for dispute resolution in Africa and to discuss ways to ensure that disputes originating from, and terminating in Africa, are resolved within the continent. This will in turn boost the African economy and promote arbitration law and practice in the region.
In the opinion of this contribution, African States must be more radical in their approach to investment treaty and ISDS reforms. First, they must retain the role of domestic courts in the resolution of investment disputes in line with their national constitutions. Second, where the case for an international dispute settlement mechanism is made, they must consider a state-state trade and investment dispute settlement bodies at the regional and continental levels for all transnational business disputes. Appeals from domestic courts could lie before regional appellate bodies and from a regional appellate to a continental dispute settlement body. This should provide assurance to investors and other business entities that their disputes can and must be resolved within the African continent.
If Africa is genuinely interested in the reforms of ISDS then the words of the Kenyan delegation at the UNCITRAL working group must be our yards stick; the desired outcome will only be achieved when we begin to consider the substantive issues in an open, frank, free, and transparent manner, noting the need to fast track the conclusion of a holistic reform process of the ISDS. Perceptions and plausible folk theories aimed at nothing but creating hegemony in ISDS must be shunned. My crystal ball tells me that ISDS is here to stay, thus we must make no mistakes, but shape ISDS to suit our future interests.
This analysis addresses the question whether it is constitutional and prudent for African states to agree to a treaty term such as national treatment, which limits their sovereign and constitutional powers to regulate in the public interest without having to account to foreign investors. The constitutions of many African states endorse the principle that sovereignty resides in the people.
Investors have shown time and time again that they will not hesitate to challenge regulatory measures not matter what a states’ underlying intent is. Only when the COVID-19 dust has settled will it be known which states had robust, well-crafted COVID-19 regulatory measures that can survive investor claims.
The present state of international economic law leaves much to be desired. Anchored by the multilateral General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, which led to the creation of the World Trade Organization, and complemented by a vast network of bilateral and multilateral investment treaties and free trade agreements, international economic law is drawn from diffuse sources. Additionally, the WTO Dispute Settlement Body and Appellate Body, which interpret the GATT provisions, and arbitral tribunals, which interpret investment protection agreement provisions, shape the content of international economic law. However, the patchwork of treaty text and dispute settlement rulings into a body of law is unraveling.
One of the key points of departure of this book is that ‘the prevailing investment treaty based rules regime institutionalises neoliberalism, which argues for a lesser involvement of the state in the market’ (p. 19), and that ‘despite neo-liberalism’s aversion to the role of the state in economic matters, the state is responsible for the public interest and is the highest authority and a reduction in its economic functions’ (p. 19). It is on this basis that Adeleke theorises a harmonisation between the neoliberalist attitudes of international investment law on the one hand, and the public interest objectives of human rights law on the other.
This book symposium is about a new era of international investment norms in Africa. The discussion focuses on how to foster cooperation between African states and foreign investors in implementing sustainable development objectives and addressing global challenges. Several traditional investment treaties offer investors broad rights and protections that are backed by strong dispute settlement mechanisms. In the same vein, States have historically committed to non-reciprocal obligations in investment treaties that are seen as significantly limiting the policy space of states.