Legal experts in business law from West Africa have ended a week-long workshop in Cotonou, Benin Republic on the process of examining the compatibility of 15 ECOWAS draft legal instruments with existing laws of the Organization for the Harmonization of Business Law in Africa (OHADA).
The 2-8 September 2012 meeting enabled seven Anglophone legal experts in business law from non-OHADA States to discuss with their counterparts from OHADA signatory countries, focusing on areas of commercial contract, sale and carriage of goods and the security of tenure of business premises of foreign and local nationals, The workshop was held within the regional business law harmonization project, a process that was started in 1996 by the ECOWAS Commission in order to ensure the harmonization of commercial and business laws in the region.
The project was discontinued but revived in 2006 before which uniform Acts in this area had been harmonized by OHADA with applicability in French speaking Member States. Ultimately, the project will ensure that the legal instruments are aligned with existing OHADA instruments and contribute to the creation of a business law environment in the region that is based on best practices and procedures. The Acting Director of Legal Affairs of the Commission, Mrs. Henrietta Didigu explained at the opening of this second workshop that the objective of the alignment exercise is to “establish a harmonized business law environment and thus facilitate and promote intra- and inter-regional trade among Member State,” with the purpose of deploying them as tools for attracting additional Foreign Direct Investment into the region.
Since OHADA instruments are already applicable in some Member States, she said, the Commission is obliged to take them into account within the process of its harmonization project as they have become “a vital reference point for the evolution of the ECOWAS Community Draft Business Acts, particularly in those areas of law already existing in the OHADA regime.” Mrs. Didigu said the project is at a stage “where the Commission’s consultative team of experts from both OHADA and non-OHADA zones are helping the Commission to examine the extent of harmony achieved in the texts that have been produced.” The inaugural workshop under the exercise was held in April 2012 during which participants examined the Directives on the Principles of Company Law and related Commercial Entities.
A final text was developed which when adopted would become the reference for applicable Company Law Principles in the region. The outcomes of the workshops will be presented to a meeting of the Community’s legal experts later in the year, whose recommendations will be considered by the decision-making authorities of the organization