One would be justified in thinking that AU member states have intentionally created a court which they consciously know they would hardly use given the inertia identified above. If the reforms that would extend standing to private parties are not undertaken, there is little guarantee that Member States will suddenly change their habits. Assuming for once that they trigger the mechanism, it is also very likely that, consistent with their practice for political solutions to legal problems, they would not proceed beyond the consultation and good offices stages provided in Articles 7 and 8 of the Dispute Settlement Protocol.
Local communities, for their part, consider investor responsibility a necessary part of the fabric of international law and politics. While the AU works towards framing business and human rights in Africa along with global developments regarding a treaty on business and human rights and treaties such as the Morocco/Nigeria BIT, African peoples and communities continue to adopt available mechanisms as avenues for communicating their positions on these important issues and exercising agency on a subject that is of utmost importance to their wellbeing.
In my view variable geometry is likely to further slow down the implementation of the AfCFTA because it is a way to accommodate less advantageous countries or countries unwilling to move as fast as others. Even if variable geometry is the only way to move forward in trade agreements of the 21th century as some have argued, it makes trade liberalization more complicated and slows down integration initiatives. More detailed research on variable geometry from an African perspective needs to be undertaken because the continent cannot afford the potential failure of the AfCFTA.
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.
A proper assessment of Rudahindwa’s monograph on the subject of establishing the African Economic Community (AEC) is one that cannot exclude the currents of ongoing reform efforts and the extent to which they are able to move the continent faster towards the dream of achieving the AEC. This invariably raises some methodological questions that border on multidisciplinary approach to regionalism, and the issue of context. The author highlights these two imperatives in the monograph. By using the concept of “developmental regionalism” as an analytical prism, the author situates the discussion within a multidisciplinary paradigm.
The hallmark of Jonathan Bashi’s masterful analysis of the uniquely multifarious and variegated processes which set Africa apart from all other regional integration theatres (the Americas, Europe, Southeast Asia) is its lucidity. His organising concept of ‘regional developmentalism through law’ as distinct from regionalism per se or regional economic integration is a genial critical and discursive move. It effectively critiques and corrects the concealed neoliberalism of integrationist discourse by 1) restoring the means-end relationship of regionalism to development, and 2) foregrounding the centrality and polyvalence of law as mechanism. For Bashi, the role of rules is not to serve markets, but to fashion, construct, and condition them.
Rudahindwa’s contribution lies in his articulation of the need for institutions and legal frameworks to reflect these multiple objectives of African RECs. In this regard, he ably demonstrates how the specific objectives of NAFTA, ASEAN, MERCOSUR and the EU have informed the nature of the institutions that manage their respective organisations and their legal frameworks, including how they address issues such as the relationship between the laws of the organisations and their member states, the bindingness of agreed commitments and laws, and dispute settlement.
The settlement of disputes under the AfCFTA will be governed by the Protocol on Rules and Procedures of the Settlement of Disputes which provides for the establishment of Dispute Settlement Body with authority to establish panels to receive and determine interstate trade disputes. Thus, individuals do not have direct access to the DSP. Therefore, this raises the question: Is this mechanism attractive and would states use it? It is premature to predict whether or not states will use it.
Africa boasts of at least eight RECs (or potential and existing FTAs) recognised by the AU, one emerging TFTA, and, a budding AfCFTA. All these efforts are meant to lead to the realisation of the AEC