Incremental Development of a Legal Framework for Arbitration in Emerging Markets: A Case Study of Construction Arbitration in Nigeria

Photo by David Rotimi

Dr. Fikayo Taiwo, Lecturer in Law at the University of Essex, has concluded her Ph.D. thesis titled ‘Incremental Development of a Legal Framework for Arbitration in Emerging Markets: A Case Study of Construction Arbitration in Nigeria’.

The problem the thesis sought to investigate is the continued exportation of Africa-related disputes for arbitration outside of the continent based on a perceived lack of an appropriately attractive seat of international arbitration within the region.

Given the economic impact of arbitration activity on a nation’s gross domestic product (GDP), the issue of capital flight was especially concerning.

To this end, the aim of the thesis was dual: first, to ascertain the viability of existing frameworks for commercial arbitration in African emerging markets for the purposes of promoting their reputation as seats of international arbitration; and second, to extend the literature on the African Union’s economic integration agenda that has recently been brought to the fore again by the Agreement establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

In dealing with the problem, Dr. Taiwo set out to investigate the main research question of the extent to which a sector-specific specialist arbitration framework could enhance the right of access to justice.

Using a hybrid methodology and the single case study design, the central argument was that, to the extent that the necessary political will is present, identifying small spaces for reform (especially through specialist arbitration frameworks) and dealing with these issues in chunks is an effective way of progressively improving the parameters of access to justice, building attractive seats of international arbitration in Africa and consequently, contribute to economic and sustainable development.

One of the original contributions the thesis makes is applying access to justice from human rights law to commercial law as a major conceptual basis for the research to address not only arbitration matters but also other issues that parties take into consideration when choosing a seat of arbitration.

The wider significance of the work lies in its ability to not only reinforce the idea that the law is part of the development and should be part of critical sectors like the construction industry but also to inform law and policy for commercial arbitration in emerging markets and international institutions.

The thesis also expands the knowledge base of access to justice and the role it plays in issues beyond the realm of human rights law and discourse.

Dr. Taiwo plans to publish journal articles from her thesis to further explore the theme of the interplay of commercial dispute resolution and human rights for sustainability, and pathways to effective regionalisation through commercial arbitration in Africa.

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