At a time when Africa’s new market in dispute resolution is inventing itself, Rwanda established the Kigali International Arbitration Centre with the purpose of serving the East Africa region and beyond. Considering economic growth in Africa and that most African economies are seeking integration for faster growth and cooperation, it is likely that commercial disputes are equally expected to be on the increase.
The Centre was established and launched on 31st May 2012 under the auspices of the Private Sector Federation (“PSF”) to provide parties with the support, infrastructure and administration to carry out efficient alternative dispute resolution, as an alternative to court proceedings. This move is one of the Rwanda’s initiatives reflecting the country’s commitment to creating remarkable investment climate. Globally, majority of business people prefer to settle disputes outside courts—through arbitration for obvious reasons, such as; reduced costs and time, confidentiality and preservation of relationship of the disputants. However, prior to KIAC’s existence, very little was known about the concept and practice of arbitration in Rwanda.
The Government of Rwanda, PSF, KIAC and Investment Climate Facility for Africa (ICF) signed on 24th October 2012 an agreement to finance the Alternative Dispute Resolution Project (ADRP) with an aim to support the operationalization of the Centre and complement efforts by the Judiciary in consolidating contract enforcement gains made under the commercial justice reforms. Three years later, Rwanda is a centre of reference where professionals involved in arbitration, members of the Business Community at local and international level seek professional advice on arbitration.
According to Dr. Fidèle Masengo, the acting Secretary General, several milestones have been achieved and he attributes the success to the vibrant economy, remarkable investment climate reforms and good governance which all create an enabling environment that ADR needs in order to flourish. He also pointed out that the good collaboration with the Judiciary of Rwanda; the strong partnership with the Private Sector and development partners like Investment Climate Facility for Africa (ICF) has laid the foundation for notable success. He outlined some of the key achievements as;
1. Advocacy for pro-arbitration framework
The promotion of arbitration requires a pro-arbitration legal and institutional framework. KIAC advocated for the development of an ADR policy proposal to backup any reforms that may be proposed in order to create conducive environment for the effective use of ADR. KIAC developed the ADR Policy proposal, strategic plan and business plan that will establish a holistic framework with stakeholder roles in addressing the insufficient use of ADR. KIAC is currently advocating for a new Law on Mediation and Adjudication.