The new Arbitration Foundation of Southern Africa (AFSA) International Arbitration Rules (the Rules) came into force on 1 June 2021, applying to all international arbitrations commenced at AFSA on or after that date.

The Rules are the product of a Drafting Committee, led by Professor Maxi Shearer, and an Advisory Board consisting of “leading academics, experts and practitioners from across the globe“. They mark a significant departure from existing arbitral practice in South Africa and demonstrate AFSA’s focus on widening its appeal to a truly international market following an “exponential growth” in its international caseload. In particular, AFSA hopes that the new Rules, together with South Africa’s 2017 International Arbitration Act, will provide the foundation for South Africa to solidify its position as a preferred seat on the continent of Africa for the resolution of cross-border disputes.

As with recent revisions to other institutional rules, the Rules are designed to increase the efficiency of arbitral proceedings.  Features of the Rules include expedited procedures, emergency arbitration, provisions on third party funding, and provide for electronic filings and virtual hearings. They also make provision for multi-party and multi-contract disputes.

The Rules also introduce a significant change to the way AFSA operates, introducing a new AFSA Court, formed of senior international and African practitioners, and a Secretariat. The Court will be responsible for appointing and sanction the appointment of arbitrators, and resolving challenges to appointments and issues of jurisdiction. Meanwhile, the Secretariat will carry out the day-to-day administration of AFSA’s international caseload.

HSF Director, Jonathan Ripley-Evans, has played a significant role in the development of the AFSA International Rules, both as a member of the Drafting Committee and as a leading South African practitioner. Following the release of the Rules he has been appointed to the AFSA Court.  Jonathan comments; “The new International Rules both foster efficiency in AFSA arbitrations and reflect international best practice. I am delighted that the new Rules have had such a warm reception and I hope that they will achieve their aim to make AFSA, and South Africa, an even more attractive choice for parties looking to resolve their international disputes.”

The Rules can be found here.

For more information, please contact Jonathan Ripley-Evans, Director, Vanessa Naish, Professional Support Consultant, or your usual Herbert Smith Freehills contact.