The Economic Commission for Africa will launch a report on bilateral investment treaties and their implications for Africa during the Conference of Ministers taking place in Addis Ababa from 31 March to 05 April 2016.
The impact of Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs) on economic growth in Africa remains debatable as results from an ECA survey indicate that investment treaties do not necessarily bring the much-needed investments.
The ECA report recommends revisiting the wording in the BITs before being re-negotiated with the counterparts as most of the BITs were signed a long time ago.
It says the revisiting will ensure that a balance is struck between protecting the investor and giving the government sufficient policy space to achieve development objectives.
Bilateral investment treaties contain provisions for the settlement of investment disputes.
Between 1972 and 2014, Africa participated in 111 cases representing about one fifth of all those documented, which are treaty-based. About 107 of these cases were settled at the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes, making it very difficult for African countries to defend their cases.
The report therefore recommends considering using regional courts such as Southern African Development Community (SADC) Tribunal.
The report also points out that investment in Africa continues to be hampered by a number of challenges such as high transaction costs, inadequate infrastructure, and tariff and non-tariff barriers.
It recommends a collective effort from all member States and regional bodies dealing with investment issues to address these challenges, the report declares.
Once considered a high risk region, Africa is now being considered by many investors as the next frontier for investments and the increasing number of bilateral investment treaties (BIT) signed in the last decades is evidence of this.
The improved governance, and macro-economic conditions, investment-friendly policies, increased population and urbanization, and abundant natural resources are all contributing to the rediscovery of the continent by investors.