The OHADA Celebrates its 20th Anniversary, by Antonio Delgado

On 17 October 2013, the Organisation pour l’Harmonisation en Afrique du Droit des Affaires (Organisation for the Harmonization of Business Law in Africa) or OHADA celebrated its 20th anniversary under the presidency of Burkina Faso. A series of events have been organised to commemorate the event, including a meeting of business law experts in Ouagadougou to discuss the achievements and the future prospects of the organisation.[1]

The OHADA is a system of business laws and implementing institutions adopted by 17 African nations, created on 17 October 1993 in Port Louis, Mauritius.[2] Its objective is the harmonisation of business laws in Member States by the elaboration and adoption of simple modern common rules adapted to their economies, by setting up appropriate judicial measures, and by encouraging arbitration for the settlement of contractual disputes.[3]

The OHADA functions predominantly through two institutions: the Council of Ministers and the Common Court of Justice and Arbitration.[4] The Council of Ministers is charged with debating and adopting the Uniform Acts, which are the main sources of OHADA law and the most important means of harmonisation. They are directly applicable and overriding in the Member States, notwithstanding any conflict with previous or subsequent enactment of municipal laws.[5] They are therefore a source of supranational law akin to EU Regulations in that they enjoy direct effect and supremacy over national law. The Common Court of Justice and Arbitration is the institution in charge of the interpretation and enforcement of the Treaty and the Uniform Acts. It rules, by way of appeal, on the decisions pronounced by the appellate courts of Member States in all business issues raising questions pertaining to the application of Uniform Acts.[6]

Arbitration also plays and important rule in the implementation of OHADA law. The OHADA Treaty provides that any national court of a Member Nation hearing a case wherein the parties have agreed that the matter be resolved by arbitration shall hold itself as lacking jurisdiction. Similar to art. 33 of the ICC arbitration rules, which provides that the ICC International Court of Arbitration will scrutinise ICC awards, any arbitrator has to submit its proposed award to the Common Court of Justice and Arbitration, which may suggest any formal amendments to the decision.[7]

20 years since its creation, the OHADA has enacted nine Uniform Acts which have contributed to the integration of its Member Nations. In a message published in OHADA’s website the Permanent Secretary, Dorothé Cossi Sossa, points at the need of improving self-financing mechanism, dealing with multilingualism and the creation of a trade and personal property credit register at regional and national levels as the future challenges of the organisation. This suggests that the focus is now placed on consolidating gains rather than implementing more general uniform acts.[8]



[1] See entry dated 17 Ocotber 2013 on the Portail Officiel du Governement du Côte d’Ivoire (http://www.gouv.ci/actualite_1.php?recordID=3946).

[2] The OHADA is currently constituted by Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Republic of the Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Togo and Democratic Republic of Congo.

[3] See art. 1 OHADA Treaty.

[4] See Title V OHADA Treaty.

[5] See Title II OHADA Treaty.

[6] See Title III of OHADA Treaty.

[7] See arts. 23 and 24 of OHADA Treaty. For a discussion on the grounds for the refusal and enforcement of arbitral awards under OHADA law see our posts of 6 and 8 August 2012 by Ndeugwe Bernard Taylor Tumnde.

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