ARBITRATION IN GHANA—THE ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION ACT 2010
Senior Associate, Mayer Brown International LLP (London)
Ghana’s abundant growth potential 1 is expected to attract and promote substantial levels of foreign investment over the coming years. This is likely to be matched, and perhaps exceeded, by domestic investment, not least as growing oil revenues are put to use. Much of this investment will be directed towards the significant modernisation, housing, energy and infrastructure projects which are planned or already underway.
This will significantly increase both the size and importance of Ghana’s construction industry. In a global economy, large-scale projects will very often involve contracting parties from multiple geographic locations and legal jurisdictions, particularly as contractors, consultants and funders around the world are attracted by the growth prospects and opportunities which Ghana offers. 2 Such projects will entail complex, often multi-layered, contractual arrangements. All of these factors serve to bring into focus the importance of a clear, modern and robust framework for the arbitration of construction disputes.
Internationally, the importance of arbitration as a means of resolving construction disputes has long been recognised. However, this has not always been the case in Ghana. Whilst it is difficult to assess the prevalence of arbitration in Ghana (given the limited availability of reliable statistics), data for the year 2008 3 suggest that the number of domestic arbitrations may have been as low as seven. This bears out the anecdotal view within Ghana that arbitration is not a favoured method of dispute resolution, and that there is a preference for “the authority of a court judgment”. 4
This may, however, be set to change. The past decade has seen concerted efforts by the Ghanaian government and other groups to investigate and promote alternatives to the courts for the resolution of disputes, including arbitration. This has culminated in the comprehensive updating and revision of the law governing domestic and international arbitration in
1 Ghana commenced the commercial exploitation of significant oil deposits at the start of 2011. The World Bank estimates that the Ghanaian economy could grow by as much as 13.4% in 2011 (World Bank, “Navigating Strong Currents”, Global Economic Prospects , vol. 2, January 2011, p. 123).
2 A recent report (see Global Construction Perspectives and Oxford Economics, Global Construction 2020 , (2010)) concludes that emerging markets will account for the majority of the global construction sector’s growth by 2020.
3 Op. cit. n. 1; figures from Ghana Arbitration Centre.
4 AfriMAP, Initiative for West Africa and The Institute for Democratic Governance, Ghana: Justice Sector and the Rule of Law (Open Society Institute Network, 2007), p. 132.
Pt 4] Arbitration in Ghana
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