Chairman of the Governing Council of Abuja Chamber of Commerce Dispute Resolution Centre, Chief Emeka Obegolu has said that any investment in Africa comes with a perception of higher risk and that for any investor or business to consider venturing into a market, there must be opportunity and there must be the potential for good returns.
The chairman made this remark on Monday, May 21st, 2018 at the American Bar Association African Regional Forum in Cape Town, South Africa .
According to him often times, perception is as powerful as the truth. Policy inconsistencies, ease of doing business, sanctity of contracts, infrastructure deficit, legal and regulatory challenges, macro-economic challenges, corruption and political rigidities, are the kinds of risks associated with doing business in Africa.
However, he said that these kinds of risks can be overcome as business is about risk mitigation not only risk avoidance and must be approached with optimism.
“Historically, higher risks translate to higher rewards. You can tell from World Bank statistics, that Africa rewards its investors richly, particularly those that take a long-term approach to their investments,” he said.
Speaking further the chairman said reports from different development organizations including the World Bank shows that actual or perceived political risk hinders inflow of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to several developing countries and these risks stem from adverse regulatory changes, breach of contract, expropriations and problems related to transfers and currency convertibility.
“Countries considered fragile and prone to conflict present unique challenges, caused not only by heightened risks of new or recurring political violence, but also by structural and institutional weaknesses. As a result, the volume and composition of foreign capital flows to these countries is significantly different from patterns observed in developing countries in general.”
He said that since each country in Africa is different, the type of investment dispute that is most common will depend on economies, sources of commercial activities and the natural resources that each country has.
“In Nigeria, historically, there has been an increase in commercial disputes, mostly in the oil & gas and maritime sectors. This was due to the large investments that were being made in these sectors at that time.
From the moment the contract is being negotiated and the dispute resolution clause is being formulated, companies should be mindful of the special characteristics of that region and should, if necessary, secure the necessary local knowledge from a reputable law firm practicing there.
In most African countries, Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) institutions like International Arbitration Centres, Multi-Door Courthouses and Regional Arbitration Centres have become increasingly popular in resolving commercial disputes, and many are now done in Africa rather than in established arbitration venues outside Nigeria such as London.
“The commercial dispute resolution landscape in Africa is undergoing a transformation, with arbitration emerging as the preeminent dispute resolution mechanism. However, the perception of excessive delays in enforcement of contract is still there and this portends a risk to be considered while making investment decisions,” Chief Obegolu said.
Based on these risks Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry, as the voice of the private sector in the Federal Capital Territory of Nigeria, has set up a world-class dispute resolution centre as an advocacy policy for the attraction of foreign direct investments into Nigeria.
The chairman said presently, the ACCI DRC is in talks with the private sector in China, led by some regional Chambers of Commerce in China for a comprehensive Memorandum of Understanding for the resolution of Chinese investment disputes within the centre.
We are also engaging the Federal Government in Nigeria through the office of the Attorney General of the Federation for the resolution of investment disputes within the Centre
Chief Emeka therefore urges potential investors to manage their perceptions of risks & rid themselves of any bias.
“Don’t let extreme events distort your understanding of risks in the continent . Don’t aggregate data across more than 50 African countries and let it inform your risk assessment. Gain local-knowledge-competence through the use of services of reputable professional firms .Learn from successful African firms – already quite savvy at risk assessment and management .Doing the above allows you to profitably use standard modern financial techniques for risk measurement and effective management,” he added.