This paper engages in a critical legal analysis of Professor Ian Taylor’s article, Sixty Years Later: Africa’s Stalled Decolonization. It is not meant to be an exhaustive analysis but will provide a limited legal perspective of the article’s foundational arguments on the underlying causes of Africa’s economic underdevelopment, through a legal lens rooted in intellectual property (IP) law and international investment law (IIL).
International Economic System
I propose that it is our current and future battles that will determine the meaning and impact of decolonisation in Africa and beyond. As things stand now, the dead are certainly not safe. Let me elaborate on this claim drawing from Professor Taylor’s work: his piece draws from the classics of Third Worldist Marxism and dependency theory to provide a sober account of Africa’s nominally post-colonial present.
As an essential outcome of strengthening the state control over natural wealth and resources, Tanzania has brought natural resource contracts into the purview of its domestic legal system. In doing so, some countries have exercised their sovereign rights to natural resources as the basis for denouncing international adjudication of investment claims based on such contracts. Indeed, biases perceived by Tanzania concerning international arbitration fora have played a great role in bringing natural recourse contracts into the purview of Tanzanian legal system. The goal of the reforms is to mitigate such partialities through using domestic dispute resolution mechanisms.
“Not acceptable at this level”, a professor commented on one of my exam questions that asked students to “[d]escribe the salient features of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU).” This happened in 2017 at the University of Namibia (UNAM) where, until last year, I taught the International Economic Law module, a module pitched at the level of a bachelor honors degree. The professor – an academic from a leading South African university hired to moderate examination papers from UNAM’s Faculty of Law – recommended that I tweak my question as follows: “Discuss the validity of the Southern African Customs Union in the WTO framework”.