African Lawyers are today set to be trained in the complexity of international commercial contracts. The programme is an initiative of African Legal Support Facility (ALSF), that aims at strengthening negotiating capacities.
“The training will help African countries access sound legal advice and strengthen their negotiating capacity,” said Coumba Doucoure Ngalani, an ALSF Legal Counsel, from Senegal.
The coaching is jointly organised by the ALSF, a subsidiary of the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the Pan African Lawyers Union.
“Most African countries do not have the local capacity to deal with complex international agreements. Even when they do, there are very few lawyers with the knowledge, resources and support to do the work,” said Jacqueline Muna Musiitwa, a Legal Advisor to the Rwandan Minister of Justice.
ALSF was created in 2009, after African Finance Ministers called for the establishment of a legal technical assistance facility to help Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPCs) to address vulture funds.
Vulture funds are companies that buy up the debt of poor nations cheaply when it is about to be written off. And then sue for the full value of the debt plus interest - which might be ten times what they paid for.
The training project of ALSF is seen as a sure way of assisting African countries in dealing with aggressive creditors.
The vulture funds have existed for a while and the question is whether the training of African lawyers is not long overdue, but in reaction to this, Musiitwa said: “Better late than never”.
She added that private international law is still a developing area in many African countries.
“Many African lawyers are poorly trained in international law; coupled with having less practical international law experience.”
The coaching session in Rwanda will be followed by similar ones in other parts of the continent.