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Malawi Law Society pushes for arbitration centre

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The Malawi Law Society (MLS) is moving to establish an international commercial arbitration centre to act as an alternative channel of commercial disputes resolution in the country and across the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) region.

A memo from MLS’s President Patrick Mpaka to the society’s Head of Commercial Practice Division, Eltone Jangale dated August 12, 2022, says having the international commercial arbitration centre would boost investor confidence and open international connections that will enhance investment inflows as well as showcase the Malawi legal system and legal community internationally.

“Establishing an international arbitration seat in Malawi, if achieved, will enhance economic justice delivery by alleviating the commercial courts in the country of the pressures of commercial litigation in matters that qualify and can be dealt with at an institutionalised and internationally recognised centre for resolving international investment and commercial disputes,” reads the memo.

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In a separate interview, Mpaka said the centre will make Malawi more attractive to serious investors and position it favourably to take a leading role in arbitration across the region.

Mpaka said MLS is spearheading the establishment of the centre in partnership with the Sadc Lawyers Association (Sadc-LA) and Arbitration Foundation of Southern Africa (Afsa), saying economic dispute resolution remains one of the critical issues any serious investor looks at before investing in any country.

He said with the country’s courts grappling with a backlog of cases, the internationally recognised commercial arbitration centre will become a viable alternative for commercial dispute resolution locally and across the region.

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Mpaka added that arbitrations will be being handled by lawyers and experts in relevant fields to ensure that disputes are dealt with holistically.

“In many cases, judges just look at the law but some disputes are too technical and complex to be looked at from a legal perspective only,” he said.

To formalise the working relationship of leading stakeholders in the initiative and solicit views from various stakeholders, MLS, Sadc-LA and Afsa are today holding a high-level consultative conference where the project partners are expected to also sign a memorandum of understanding on deadlines and courses of action to be taken.

A tentative programme we have seen indicates that apart from the lawyers, experts in accounting, banking and finance, taxation, business and commerce, engineering and the construction industry, agriculture and tourism, among others, are expected to participate in the conference.

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