The Dispute Settlement Procedures of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement

Ten Salient Things You Need to Know About the Dispute Settlement Procedures in the African Continental Free Trade Agreement Before it Goes Operational

By Jacob A. Akuo, Esq., LLM

Co-founding Partner, International Trade Law Expert

The African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA or the Agreement) is one of the most ambitious economic projects undertaken by Africa as a Continent in decades. For starters, it has been signed by all State Parties of the African Union, but one (Eritrea). Secondly, its ratification has been incredibly faster than anticipated. It came into force on May 30, 2019 after the procedural threshold for ratification by at least 22 countries[1] as provided for in Article 23(2) of the Agreement was reached. As at now, 30 countries have completed their domestic ratification procedures and 28 have deposited their instruments of ratification at the depositary. As at October 16, 2020, Cameroon and Angola are the two countries whose domestic ratification procedures have been completed (on October 31, 2019 and April 28, 2020 respectively) but whose instruments of ratification are still to be deposited at the depositary. Nigeria which has been hesitant about the Agreement from the onset has intimated its intention to ratify it and just recently, its Minister of Trade stated (after a meeting with the Secretary General of AfCFTA) that a National Action Committee on AfCFTA will be set up to explore and pilot the ratification procedures.[2]

Regarding the Secretariat, a Secretary General of the AfCFTA[3] was sworn in on March 19, 2020 while the Secretariat premises which are to be in Accra, Ghana were handed over by the Ghanaian President[4] on August 17, 2020 in a ceremony held via Zoom. The Agreement was supposed to be fully operational by July 2020 but the commencement date was postponed to the beginning of 2021 because of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

In addition to its two Protocols on Trade in Goods and Trade in Services, the Agreement contains a Protocol on the Procedures for the Settlement of Disputes (DS Protocol). The Agreement[5] and the DS Protocol put in place a Dispute Settlement Mechanism (DSM) which is a mirror image of the WTO DSM as contained in the WTO Agreement and the WTO Understanding on the Rules and Procedures Governing Disputes Settlement (DSU). In other words, the AfCFTA DSM is so heavily modelled after the WTO DSU that most of its provisions are almost word verbatim those of the provisions of the DSU.

The DS Protocol applies to disputes arising between State Parties to the Agreement as regards their rights and obligations. Article 1 of the DS Protocol defines a dispute as a disagreement between State Parties regarding the interpretation and/or application of the Agreement in relation to their rights and obligations.

In light of ensuring the smooth operation of the Agreement, the main objective of the DS Protocol is to administer the DSM and to ensure that disputes are settled in a manner that is transparent, accountable, fair, predictable and consistent with the provisions of the Agreement.[6] It is “a central element in providing security and predictability in the regional trading system”.[7]

On this note, here are 10 salient things you need to know about the DS Protocol of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement and the DSM it sets up before it becomes fully functional.

  1. The Protocol sets up a Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) akin to that put in place by the WTO Agreement (Article IV) and the WTO DSU (Article 2)

The Agreement in its article 20 puts in place a Dispute Settlement Mechanism (DSM) which is charged with determining disputes that arise from the Agreement, its Protocols, and the respective Annexes. This Mechanism is driven by a Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) which it also envisages. The affirmation of the DSB is contained in article 5 of the DS Protocol, which gives powers to the DSB to administer the DS Protocol.

Its core functions, identical to those of the WTO DSB, are laid down in article 5 of the DS Protocol (which we will look at in some detail later on in this article). They include:

  • Establishment of dispute settlement Panels
  • Adopting of Panel and Appellate Body (AB) Reports.
  • Maintaining the surveillance of the rulings and recommendations of Panels and AB
  • Authorization of suspension of concessions (retaliation) and other obligations under the Agreement.

Just like the WTO, the AfCFTA as a whole and the DSB as its organ is a rules-based member driven organization composed of representatives from each State Party, and a Chairman voted by them. In other words, though its recommendations and rulings are binding on the Parties, it will largely conduct itself as a diplomatic forum with room for discussions, objections, and votes. Its meetings shall be held as often as it can to discharge its duties, and its decisions are taken by consensus.

  1. The disputes settlement procedure is mainly commenced through consultations

Generally, disputes arise where a measure put in place by a State Party violates that party’s obligations under the Agreement and Protocols, or undermines her undertakings under her schedules of commitments/concessions, or such measure(s) nullifies or impairs the benefits accruing to another State Party under the Agreement..

In such a circumstance, the affected Party can commence a dispute by entering into consultations with the adverse Party in order to arrive at an amicable resolution of the dispute.[8] These consultations may be carried out in the territory of the Complaining State Party unless both Parties agree otherwise.

Requests for such consultations are addressed in writing to the DSB through the Secretariat. The content of the request needs to briefly identify the measure(s) and the legal basis for the complaint.[9] Consultations involve talks by the disputing Parties about the measure(s) in question and how it may or may not violate their respective rights and obligations. As confidential as they are required to be, they do not preclude any Party from commencing further proceedings.[10]

Where a request for consultations is filed as abovementioned, the Party to whom it is addressed has ten days within which to reply to such a request unless both Parties mutually agree otherwise. Both Parties have up to thirty days to enter into good faith consultations to reach a mutually agreeable or satisfactory solution. Where the adverse Party fails to reply to the requests for consultations within the ten days deadline or does not enter into consultations within the thirty days period, or otherwise mutually agreed, the Complaining Party may refer the matter to the DSB requesting for the establishment of Panels. The deadlines are even narrower where there is urgency because of perishable products.

Third Parties may request to join the consultations within ten days from the circulation of the request for consultations on the condition that the disputing Parties agree that the claims of the Third Party are well founded. Where they decide to the contrary, this does not exclude the Third Party from independently requesting for consultations.[11]

  1. Panels are put in place in cases where consultations fail to reach a mutually agreed or amicable solution

Where Parties to the dispute fail to reach a mutually agreeable or amicable solution during the consultations, the Complaining Party can refer the matter to the DSB requesting for the establishment of Panels.[12] The request for Panels must contain indications as to whether consultations were held, concise information as to the measure(s) in question, and the obligations it violated (legal basis). The DSB proceeds to convene a meeting within fifteen days from the receipt of the request. The DSB constitutes the Panels within ten days following the meeting.[13]

It is important to underline that, article 10 of the Agreement just like the WTO DSU urges the Secretariat to maintain an indicative list or roster of individuals who can serve as Panellists. They must propose this list of Panellists to the disputing Parties who are obliged to accept the proposal except in compelling circumstances.[14] The Panellists on the indicative list or roster must fulfil the following conditions:

  • They should be experts or experienced in law, international trade, other matters covered by the Agreement or the resolution of disputes under international trade agreements.
  • They should be chosen strictly based on objectivity, reliability, and sound judgment.
  • They should be impartial, independent of, and not be affiliated to or take instructions from, any Party.
  • And they should comply with a code of conduct to be developed by the DSB and adopted by the Council of Ministers. [15]

It is equally crucial to emphasize that panellists cannot be nationals of the disputing Parties except otherwise agreed by the Parties. Where there are two disputing Parties, the Panel is comprised of three members. Where there are more than two disputing Parties, the Panel is be comprised of five members.[16]

The role of Panels is very important because they are impartial experts in the subject of international trade and can reach a fair and objective decision/recommendation in their report that will guide the DSB (made up of diplomats) to make their rulings and recommendations.

  1. The Panel proceedings are designed to be conducted with strict respect for the timelines, terms of reference, the Agreement and rules of interpretation of treaties under international law

Once Panellists have been selected by the Parties, they are provided with terms of reference within twenty days from the establishment of the Panels, except Parties to the disputes agree otherwise.

The terms of reference lay out the contours and scope of the panellists’ engagements. Terms of reference can either be standard or special. Standard terms of reference give the panellists the mandate to examine, in light of the relevant provisions in the Agreement cited by the Parties to the disputes, the matter referred to the DSB by the Complaining Party; and to make such findings that will assist the DSB in making recommendations or giving the rulings provided for in the Agreement. On the other hand, the text in the special terms of reference is drafted by the Complaining Party on the condition that such is added in its request for Panels addressed to the DSB.[17]

The main function of the Panel is to assist the DSB in discharging its functions under the Agreement. In so doing, the Panel is obliged to objectively assess the matter before it, including the facts of the case and the applicability of and conformity to the relevant provisions of the Agreement, its Protocols and Annexes (using canons of interpretation under customary rules of international law). Their findings are meant to guide the DSB to make informed recommendations and rulings.[18]

Within seven days following the determination of the terms of reference, the Panel must fix a timetable for the proceedings and circulate same to the disputing Parties and the rest of the States Parties. Ten days following the circulation of the timetable, the Panel sets in place time limits for disputing Parties to submit their written submissions, and the disputing Parties are obliged to comply with these time limits. The Protocol limits the total time of the Panel proceedings to a maximum of five months from the establishment of the Panels right up to the final report. This time is even shorter where the dispute pertains to perishable products (one and a half month). Nonetheless, where the Panel is unable to reach its final report within this timeline, it must inform the DSB in writing with reasons for such delay in addition to an estimated time it deems appropriate to issue the final report. Such a new timeline cannot exceed a total of nine months from the time of composition of the Panel.[19]

Panel proceedings are conducted in accordance with the Working Procedure of the Panel (Annex 1 to the Agreement) unless the Panel decides otherwise after consulting the disputing Parties.[20]

In executing the proceedings, the Panel enjoys the right to seek information and technical advice from sources that it deems appropriate, after informing authorities of the disputing Parties.[21] Such information may even be sought from States which are not parties to the dispute, and such States become obliged to provide the information within the timeline set by the Panel in its request.

The Panel can equally ask well qualified experts to advise on issues that lie outside its expertise such as scientific advice or other technical information in accordance with the procedures laid down in the Annex on Expert Review Groups (Annex 2 to the Agreement).

The deliberations of the Panel are confidential, and their reports are drafted in the absence of Parties to the disputes, relying only on the information provided by them in their statements.[22] The draft report containing a descriptive section of the facts and arguments of the disputing Parties is circulated to them for their comments or observations in writing to the Panel within a period of two weeks[23].

Upon consideration of the comments of the disputing Parties, the Panel issues an interim report containing descriptive sections and its findings and conclusions. The interim report must once more be circulated to the disputing Parties for them to submit (where necessary) written request of review of specific aspects of the interim report within a period of one week[24]. Where such comments are made, a meeting shall be held with the Panel to discuss the specific aspects requested to be reviewed by the Party or Parties.[25]

A final report is then drawn up which takes into consideration the discussions and arguments made during the interim review stage. The final report of the Panel sets out the findings of the fact, the applicability of the relevant legal provisions through clarification of same in accordance with customary rules of interpretation of public international law[26], and the ratio decidendi of the findings and the recommendations that it makes.[27]

In accordance with article 19, the Report is circulated to the disputing Parties and all the State Parties. The DSB must then consider the Report at least twenty days following the circulation. Parties may file written objections to the report ten days prior to the meeting of the DSB. Within sixty days from the date of circulation of the final Report, the Report is adopted and signed at the meeting of the DSB convened for that purpose. Such adoption is done by way of reverse consensus or negative consensus. This entails that, all Parties present must object to the decision for it not to be adopted. Also taken from the WTO DSU, this approach is meant to prevent a dissatisfied disputing Party from blocking its adoption.

Note that the procedure for the adoption of the Panel report cannot proceed where one of the Parties to the proceedings has notified her interests of filing an appeal against the Report.[28]

  1. Dissatisfied Parties can appeal Panel Reports to the Appellate Body (AB)

The Protocol puts in place an Appellate Body (AB) similar to that of the WTO.  The AB is composed of seven persons appointed by the DSB for a period of four years per person, renewable once.[29] They must be highly recognized authorities and experts in international trade and the Agreement in general, and must not be affiliated to any government at the time of their appointment and tenure. Just like in the WTO DSU, they are a geographical representation of the African Continental Free Trade Area.[30] The proceedings in each case are adjudicated by a college of three AB members who must have no conflicts of interests. [31]

The AB is a forum of last resort on the dispute. As mentioned earlier, dissatisfied Parties to a dispute can inform the DSB before it adopts a Panel Report of their intention to appeal the Report to the AB. It is worth emphasizing that, only the Parties to the disputes per se can make such appeals. Third Parties or observers to the disputes at the Panel level cannot make an appeal, though they may be allowed to participate in the proceedings insofar as they have substantial interest.

The AB has the discretion to lay down its working procedures albeit they must conduct the proceedings confidentially[32]. They can only examine the disputes on points of law covered in the Panel Report and the legal interpretations developed by the Panel.[33] Just like the Panels, their reports are drawn up in the absence of the disputing Parties based on the their submissions.[34] The AB Report can reflect only one of three outcomes: uphold the Report of the Panel; modify the Report; or reverse the legal findings and conclusions of the Panel.[35] In cases where the AB finds that the measure or act in question is at odds with a Party’s obligations in the Agreement, it recommends that the measure be brought in conformity with the Agreement.[36] It may also provide suggestions on how the Party can implement such a recommendation.[37]

The Protocol obliges the AB to conduct its proceedings within a period of sixty days from the time the dissatisfied Party formally notifies the DSB of its decision to appeal the Panel Report. In setting its timetable for the Parties, the AB should consider whether the dispute pertains to perishable products to expedite the proceedings. The Protocol recognizes that the sixty days period may not be enough. Accordingly, the AB may request for an extension of the time by writing to the DSB setting out reasons for the request and the estimated time to reach the decision. In cases where the request is granted, the total time of the AB proceedings shall not exceed ninety days from the day of formal notification of the decision to appeal by the dissatisfied Party.[38]

Like the Panel Reports, AB Reports are adopted by the DSB through negative consensus or reverse consensus within thirty days from the circulation of the Report to the State Parties of the Agreement, without prejudice to the Parties’ rights to make their observations on the Report.[39]

  1. There are other ways of commencing and/or resolving disputes in the DS Protocol

Outside of consultations and Panels, the DS Protocol provides alternative avenues that disputing Parties can use to commence and/or resolve disputes. These are:

  • Confidential good offices, conciliation, or mediation[40]: These can be considered as an alternative to consultations as a means of commencing disputes and enjoy the advantage of flexible timelines. In other words, they may be commenced and terminated at any time by Parties. They can be facilitated by the Secretary General at the request of the Parties.[41]
  • Arbitration[42]: This must be based on a mutual agreement of the disputing Parties and such agreement must be notified to the DSB. Once disputing Parties take this route, they are barred from forum-shopping by simultaneously referring the matter to the DSB. Contrary to Panel and AB proceedings where rules of procedure are set out by the DS Protocol, Parties to arbitration under the Protocol enjoy the right to determine the procedures to be used for such arbitral proceedings. Awards are enforceable by the DSB in the same manner as recommendations in reports by Panels and the AB.[43]

Whichever alternative a Party may chose depends on the strategy it wishes to employ and the outcome it seeks.

  1. Third Parties can join proceedings

In cases where a trade dispute is commenced through consultations or arbitration, Third Parties who have substantial trade interests in the dispute may request to join the consultation or arbitration. It is the prerogative of Parties to the dispute to agree with their requests. The refusal of the Disputing Parties, however, does not preclude them from commencing a dispute in their own right. The same obtains at the stage of Panel proceedings where a Third Party with substantial interests may notify the Panel through the DSB of its intention to join the proceedings insofar as the Parties to the disputes judge that such substantial interest is well founded. The Panel at that point must take full consideration of the submissions filed by the Third Party.

At the AB level, Third Parties cannot file appeals to a Panel Report in their own right but can participate in appeal proceedings stemming from Panel proceedings they had effectively joined.

  1. Dispute can only be brought by State Parties and not corporations or individuals

Firstly, it is a fundamental principle of international law that only State Parties to a treaty are bound by that treaty.

Secondly, the AfCFTA just like the WTO is a member driven organization. Only State Parties can bring actions before the DSB against other State Parties to challenge measures that they deem incompatible with their rights and obligations under the Agreement. Similarly, only the DSB enjoys the right to interpret the Agreement and its Protocols, as the WTO does the Treaties signed under its aegis.

Nevertheless, international trade on a day to day basis is carried out by mostly private corporations and individuals whose governments create these rules to ensure that they enjoy security and predictability in their business activities, thus economic growth. Consequently, it is not uncommon to see them get indirect access to the dispute settlement system through State Parties. As Peter Van den Bossche (erstwhile member of the WTO AB) puts it, “[C]ompanies and industry associations are the driving force behind the initiation of dispute settlement proceedings in most cases”. [44] They sometimes even bear the legal fees for States since some of them could be very expensive, depending on the law firms used.

Also involved in getting indirect access are NGOs, economic interest groups etc., all of whom extensively lobby their governments and bring their attention to measures that impact them. It is only fair that they do this since they stand to be affected the most should the measure that violates the Agreement not be brought into compliance with the Agreement.

It is hence fair to predict that, corporations, industry groups, NGOs, individuals, etc., will be using their leverage and lobby power to bring disputes indirectly to ensure that their business and economic interests are protected where the Agreement is concerned.

  1. The DSB monitors implementation of the recommendations and rulings of the panel and can order compensation or retaliation when the need arises[45]

This phase of the dispute settlement is analogous to enforcement of court judgments, except it is not in the conventional sense, given that the proceedings are not also conventional judicial proceedings stricto sensu.

Once the Panel or AB report is adopted and recommendations and rulings are issued by the DSB, the Party that put in place the impugned measures must proceed promptly to comply with same. The Party must inform the DSB in a meeting held within thirty days of the adoption of the report of her intention to comply with the recommendations and rulings.

The Protocol envisages circumstances where a Party finds it impracticable to comply with the recommendations and rulings in which case, the Party must inform the DSB of such difficulties. A reasonable time may be granted to such a Party based on the period of time suggested by the Party and approved by the DSB; or a timeframe may be mutually accepted between the disputing Parties within forty five days upon the adoption of the Report.

However, the disputing Party which finds it hard to come up with an acceptable timeline for compliance may have the matter referred to arbitration. The arbitrator who is called upon to determine the compliance and implementation timeline is chosen by Parties to the dispute within ten days failing which the Secretariat can step in and appoint an arbitrator after consultations with the Parties and the DSB.

The arbitration proceedings should be concluded within a period of ninety days upon adoption of the Report and the timeline for implementation decided in the arbitration decision doesn’t exceed a maximum period of fifteen months, everything being equal.

It may happen sometimes that there is a disagreement as to the existence or consistency of the arrangement of measures taken to comply with the recommendations and rulings. In this case, such disagreements are settled through dispute settlement procedures, including where possible, a resort to the original Panel which is obliged to circulate a report within ninety days, everything being equal.[46]

Where the Party fails to implement the recommendations and ruling of the DSB within a reasonable time as mentioned above, the recourses available to the aggrieved Party are compensation and the suspension of concessions (retaliation), ordered by the DSB. It should be noted that these measures are temporary because they are only applied during the time of non-compliance and must be removed once the Party brings the measure into compliance. Also, compensation or retaliation should be applied as far as they are consistent with the Agreement. While compensation has been described by the Agreement as voluntary, retaliation is the last resort due to the risk of negatively affecting trade.

When retaliation is ordered by the DSB, the Complaining Party needs to ensure that she applies it in the same sector as the one in which the Panel or AB found violation(s) or nullification(s) and impairment(s). In circumstances where this is not possible, it may retaliate on other obligations in other sectors. Where the previous scenario is not likewise possible, it may retaliate on other obligations under the Agreement in general. In the last two scenarios, the Complaining Party must inform the DSB in her request for an authorization for retaliation why the first scenario will not be effective

  1. Modelling the DSM almost entirely on the WTO DSM risks a crisis in the future

As we mentioned earlier in this document, the DSM envisaged by the Agreement and operationalized by the Protocol and Annexes is strongly modelled after the WTO DSM. The striking similarities range from the dispute settlement procedures, institutions, terminology, functions of the DSB and even the timelines (which are sometimes a little narrower).

Modelling DSM after the WTO DSM is not in and of it itself bad. If anything, it is a shift towards a rules-based trading system that guarantees security and predictability to its users. Similarly, the WTO DSM has been perhaps the most effective multilateral DSM in the world compared to its peers. It has dealt with close to 600 disputes in the 25 years of its existence, resolving an overwhelming majority of them.[47]

The modelling of the AfCFTA DSM after the WTO DSM is not equally peculiar in the Continent. The Tripartite Free Trade Agreement between three Regional Economic Communities (which laid the groundwork for AfCFTA) – Southern African Development Community (SADC), Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and East African Community (EAC) have their DSM modelled after the WTO[48]. While it has drawn applause on many fronts, some critics have pointed to the difficulties of transplanting the WTO DSM or even EU type DSM to suit the socio-political realities in a continent where there is a strong disconnect or apathy with a rules-based trade system,[49] judging from the operation of the pre-existing Regional Economic Communities.

On the other hand, WTO has been dealing with its own woes recently. The system has been embattled with a crisis that threatens its own very existence. The US and other countries have long raised issues regarding the AB process such as long delays in adjudicating issues, AB members straying from their original mandate by issuing decisions which the US believes add or diminish the rights and obligations of WTO Members hence judicial overreach. The US has also argued (though with lots of push back) that the AB has created precedents (in violation of the DSU and international law) in the guise of safeguarding the “security and predictability” objective contained in the DSU. In perspective of the binding precedent argument by the US and a myriad of others, they have blocked the appointments of individuals to the AB rendering the whole system ineffective.

Furthermore, since decisions are primarily taken by consensus, these appointments may only happen when the USA is satisfied with the solutions adopted in ongoing negotiations. As recently as the last General Council meeting (September 29, 2020), the US reiterated its position and there has still been no agreed way forward. Consequently, the AB is still not functioning, at least as of October 16, 2020 when this article was published. And without an AB, the WTO is limping and can now hardly be called a rules-based system anymore. This may explain why we have seen an escalation of global trade tensions to unprecedented levels during the past three years (2018, 2019, and 2020).

The EU, China and a handful of other countries relied on article 25 DSU to create a Multi-Party Interim Appeal Arbitration Arrangement (MPIA) to the WTO. It will serve as “[…] an interim appeal arbitration procedure, as long as the Appellate Body is not able to hear appeals of panel reports in disputes among them due to an insufficient number of Appellate Body members”[50]. Though it is a promising interim alternative, some have expressed fears that such a move may further fragment the organization beyond repair. Similarly, the MPIA only governs and binds participating members.

It is difficult to say right now whether the AfCFTA DSM will suffer this same fate. But since it is modelled on the WTO DSM, such predictions cannot be entirely ruled out. This begs the question of whether transplantation of the WTO DSM by AfCFTA was well thought through by State Parties of the AfCFTA, since most of them are also WTO Members and knew of the fissures in the WTO DSM. While WTO is looking at making fundamental reforms in its system, Africans have gone with it, thus raising questions on how they plan to resolve similar difficulties when the system becomes fully functional.

Of even greater concern is the fact that although WTO Panels and the AB have found it hard to produce reports within statutory timelines due to the fact that those timelines are incredibly short and trade disputes have become much more complex and time demanding in this age of technology, the AfCFTA DSM has elected similar and even sometimes shorter statutory timelines. This makes a future crisis akin to the WTO technically foreseeable and even inevitable.

Another issue is that decision-making is primarily by consensus.[51] Though there are notable exceptions to decision-making where consensus fails, going down that route is something that no reasonable person would want to do because it will be setting a dangerous precedent. It has the potential of creating factions, alienating weaker countries and a strong likelihood of disintegration of the organization. This is the same dilemma the WTO finds itself in today. It can clearly appoint new AB members by setting aside the consensus principle of decision-making and going for a majority vote[52] but fear the whiplash such a move may create.


The AfCFTA is by far the most exceptional trade cooperation initiative Africa has taken as a bloc. The putting in place of a DSM guarantees the security and predictability of this system through a rules-based conduct of trade by the State Parties. Though it is far from a perfect initiative, it is a step towards the right direction. It carries with it the capabilities of facilitating and increasing intra-African trade to record levels, enhancing standards of living, increasing gainful employment and developing the Continent as a whole.

Dayspring Law Firm is one of the leading firms in the CEMAC that has been guiding corporations, industry associations, SMEs, and individuals on how the AfCFTA system will function and the varying advantages that will accrue to them from the system once it goes fully operational. We are currently working with, and training industry associations, NGOs, government officials, law-makers, etc., on how to identify measures that violate the Agreement or nullify and impair the rights that arise therefrom. Our expertise in this area informs our brilliant legal services and trainings on the DSM, how to conduct consultations, panel and AB proceedings, monitoring and implementation of DSB reports and arbitration awards.

[1] On the date of entry into force, it had been ratified by 24 countries.

[2] Ayodeji Adegboyega, ‘Nigeria set to ratify AfCFTA agreement – Minister’ Premium Times (Abuja September 22, 2020) available at accessed on October 1, 2020

[3] H.E. Mr Wamkele Mene

[4] H.E. H.E. Mr. Akufo-Addo

[5] AfCFTA, Article 20

[6] DS Protocol, Article 2

[7] DS Protocol, Article 4

[8] DS Protocol, Article 6

[9] DS Protocol, article 7(3)

[10] DS Protocol, Article 7 (7)

[11] DS Protocol, article 7(10&11)

[12] DS Protocol, article 9(1)

[13] DS Protocol, Article 9

[14] DS Protocol, Article 10(6)

[15] DS Protocol, Article 10(3)

[16] DS Protocol, Article 10(9)

[17] DS Protocol Article 9(3)

[18] DS Protocol, Article 10

[19] See generally Protocol, Article 15

[20] DS Protocol, Article 15(10)

[21] DS Protocol, Article 16

[22] DS Protocol, Article 17

[23] Timeline provided for in the Working Procedure of Panels

[24] Timeline provided for in the Working Procedure of Panels

[25] DS Protocol, Article 18

[26] DS Protocol, Article 4.

[27] DS Protocol, Article 15(5)

[28] DS Protocol, Article 19

[29] DS Protocol, Article 21

[30] Ibid

[31] ibid

[32] DS Protocol, Article 22

[33] DS Protocol, Article 21(3)

[34] DS Protocol, Article 22

[35] DS Protocol, Article 22(7)

[36] DS Protocol, Article 23

[37] ibid

[38] See generally DS Protocol, Article 21(2)

[39] See generally DS Protocol, Article 22(9)

[40] DS Protocol, Article 8

[41] ibid

[42] DS Protocol, Article 27

[43] ibid

[44] Peter Van den Bossche and Werner Zdouc, The Law and Policy of the World Trade Organization: Text, Cases and Materials, (4th edn CUP 2017) p. 184

[45] See generally DS Protocol, Article 24 and 25.

[46] See generally, DS Protocol, Article 24.

[47] See statistics on the WTO website at accessed on October 5, 2020

[48] Akinkugbe, Olabisi D., Dispute Settlement Under the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement: A Preliminary Assessment (June 13, 2019). African Journal of International and Comparative Law (Forthcoming, 2020), Available at SSRN: or

[49] ibid

[50] MPIA, para. 2

[51] AfCFTA, Article 14

[52] WTO Agreement, Article IX