Following a 10-month selection process, the Organisation for the Harmonisation of Business Law in Africa (OHADA) has retained a team led by Shearman & Sterling to develop and shape the Private International Law (PIL) regime in the OHADA region. Seven large international firms active in Africa participated in the tender.
OHADA was established in 1993 with the goal of harmonizing the business laws of its member States in order to foster economic development in the region. It comprises States mostly from francophone Central and Western Africa.
The present mandate consists of drafting a Uniform Act on conflict of laws, conflicts of jurisdictions and the circulation of judicial and extrajudicial documents. The Act will contain an exhaustive set of PIL rules, which will be directly applicable in the 17 OHADA states and replace any local PIL rules currently applicable in those States. This will be the eleventh Uniform Act adopted by OHADA.
The last Uniform Act adopted by OHADA on November 23, 2017 was prepared with the assistance of Jones Day and revamped the Arbitration Law (Uniform Act on Arbitration), adopted on March 11, 1999.
The Shearman & Sterling team, led by Head of International Arbitration, Professor Emmanuel Gaillard and partner Maude Lebois, will partner with recognized experts in Private International Law such as Professor Louis d’Avout, who teaches Private Law and Private International Law at University Panthéon-Assas (Paris II), and co-authored, with Professor Bernard Audit, a leading treatise on PIL, Professor Siméon Patrice Kouam of Ngaoundéré University in Cameroon and Mr. Valeri Lesmont Bahoken, lecturer at the University of Douala and author of various publications on PIL issues. The team also includes OHADA experts, in particular Mr. Alain Fénéon, a French lawyer and arbitrator heavily involved in the creation of the OHADA system and founder of the JurisAfrica network; Mr. Jackson Ngie Kamga, President of the OHADA Bar Association (Conférence des Barreaux de l’Espace OHADA); and Mr. Joachim Bile Aka, former President of the Abidjan Bar Association.
OHADA’s steps towards developing further uniform laws to create a safer investment climate for its, over 350 million-strong, consumer market is particularly welcome as the region and its economy are expected to be badly hit by the COVID pandemic.
Drafting uniform laws is particularly challenging given the historically diverse local rules and cultural heritage in the region. Once common rules will be adopted, the additional challenge will be to ensure their uniform application by local jurisdictions.
With an extensive footprint in Africa for over 50 years, Shearman & Sterling is widely considered as a leading firm in the region. Four of its partners were ranked among the list of the 100 most influential lawyers in Africa published by French publication Jeune Afrique Business, which described the Head of Shearman & Sterling’s International Arbitration team as a leading authority in the field of arbitration in Africa.
Shearman Team: Prof. Emmanuel Gaillard, Mrs. Maude Lebois, Dr Adrien Compain of Shearman & Sterling, with experts Mr Jackson Ngie Kamga, Mr Alain Fénéon, Mr Joachim Bile Aka, Prof. Louis d’Avout, Prof. Siméon Patrice Kouam, Dr Valeri Lesmont Bahoken.