Biennial Conferences

2023: Accra, Ghana.

International Economic Law in an Era of Multiple Crises: Opportunities and Challenges for Africa
21 – 24 June 2023

Click Here to Register.

The explosion of protectionist measures, high inflation, huge debt burdens and economic slowdowns continue to have detrimental effects across the world. In the midst of these, the global economy has been experiencing significant geopolitical changes. Although the World Trade Organization (WTO) Members have managed to deliver on two important multilateral agreements since its creation, namely the Trade Facilitation and the Fisheries Subsidies Agreements, negotiations under the Doha Development Round have stalled. In addition to the stalemate, there is a rise of protectionism alongside the purported invocation of national security exceptions to justify them. Trade wars are erupting between the countries that designed the post-second World War global order, coupled with what looks like an irremediable crisis in the WTO dispute settlement system. These events are constant reminders of the gravity of the threat to multilateralism. That the WTO is facing its worst existential crisis is, therefore, not an exaggeration.

As the world continues its struggle to recover from the coronavirus pandemic (Covid-19), the war between Russia and Ukraine added another dimension to an already tense situation. Changes to the global order due to the war in Ukraine have also put Africa in the geopolitical spotlight as a new arena for the struggle between the United States, European countries, and Asian states. As African countries persistently refuse to pick a side in these ongoing military and economic conflicts, the world may be entering a new geoeconomics order.

The creation of the WTO once reaffirmed the choice in favour of multilateral trade liberalization. However, regional/preferential trade agreements have proliferated in the face of the WTO’s actual and perceived difficulties in adapting to a changing global trade environment. Responding to and revealing this changing global trade environment, African countries concluded the Agreement establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) in 2018. The AfCFTA Agreement entered into force in 2019 and the implementation phase started with an official start of trading on 1 January 2021. Trade is, therefore, bound to take place under its auspices between State Parties to the Agreement that have deposited their instruments of ratification.

More complex yet, despite the official start of the trading date, some challenges remain to be addressed before the AfCFTA can realize its full potential. These include, for example, completing negotiations on rules of origin, tariff concessions for trade in goods and schedules of specific commitments in services. In the meantime, AfCFTA State Parties have signed trade and investment agreements with third states, and other negotiations are under consideration. The impacts of these “side deals” on the implementation of the AfCFTA are yet to be seen. However, their consistency in consolidating intra-African trade and investment has generated a vigorous debate splitting African countries into different camps. In the meantime, a broad range of efforts to reform the international investment regime has raised similar questions – will these reforms rectify or retrench Africa’s marginal position in the global economy?

The conference covers the following (non-exhaustive) areas:

2019: Virtual


African International Economic Law Network Virtual Colloquium 2021
COVID-19 and International Economic Law: Africa’s Experiences and Responses. 
23 – 24 July 2021

This virtual colloquium replaces the AfIELN Biennial Conference. Precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the world is adapting to living and working in an online  environment and making the best use of the technological developments that have been taking place over the years. AfIELN has therefore taken this opportunity to continue its work on improving Africa’s position in the global economy through critical discussions on International Economic Law, albeit virtually.

In light of the present situation, this year’s theme tackles the pandemic and its effect on trade, national and global economies, health systems and International Economic Law. It capitalises on how the world, and Africa specifically, has had to change tact in order to cope with the economic, political and social impacts of COVID-19. The Colloquium therefore examines Africa’s response to the pandemic, in particular, those relating to international economic law along the following sub-themes:

The conference covers following (non-exhaustive) areas

2019: Nairobi, Kenya 

Fourth African International Economic Law Network Biennial Conference.
Africa’s Participation in International Economic Law in the 21st Century.
Date 18 – 20 JULY 2019

The conference covers following (non-exhaustive) areas

2015: Lagos, Nigeria

Third African International Economic Law Network Biennial Conference and Prince Claus Chair Roundtable on Development and Equity in Africa.
The Role of International Economic Law in African Development.
29 – 30 APRIL 2015.

The Third Biennial Conference was aimed at expanding the scope of research on the balance between the actual  economic and development realities of African States and the legal paradigm under which African States operate. This was based on the urgency for Africa as a bloc to position itself to play a more prominent role in the global economic order through increasing intellectual expertise from within the continent. The conference was attended by scholars, researchers, academics and policy makers from Africa and beyond, with interests in Africa’s development at every level.

The conference was characterised by multidisciplinary research in examining Africa’s current and future economic growth challenges. Additionally, a High-Level Roundtable on ‘The Right to Development in Africa’ was held, in collaboration with the PCC, featuring leading scholars and practitioners in the field. The deliberations were organised within the following areas:

2013: Johannesburg, South Africa

Second African International Economic Law Network Biennial Conference.
Trade Governance: Integrating Africa into the World Economy through International Economic Law.
7 – 8 MARCH 2013.

This conference explored the basis of Africa’s place in the global economy, in an effort to question why most African countries are not able to enjoy the benefits of international economic law, whose main  objective is to make people live better through open and fair markets and deeper integration into the world economy. Invited academics, intergovernmental organisations, governments, policy makers, economists, private sector and NGOs came together to discuss the ways in which African states’ economies can be integrated within Africa, and into the world.

The role of these stakeholders in advancing Africa’s integration goals was also highlighted. Also on the table for discussion was the mechanisms with which other regions such as Latin America and Asia, which were once isolated, became integrated into the world economy, as well as the potential lessons for Africa drawing from these experiences.

The key question that arose was: ‘How do we insert Africa into the global economy on the key issues, that is, what are the key issues that need to be addressed for Africa’s development?’ In addressing this question, the role of intergovernmental organisations, states, private sector and NGOs in integrating Africa was considered within the following sub-themes

Inaugural Conference.
Africa and the Global Economy: Trade, Investment and Development.
5 – 6 May 2011.

The first African International Economic Law Network (AfIELN) Conference was held at the Mandela Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand in  Johannesburg on 5 – 6 May 2011. Twelve African countries were represented through academics, experts and practitioners of International Trade Law. 

The central theme of the conference ‘Africa and the Global Economy: Trade, Investment and development’ attracted several participants who presented high quality papers over the two days.
The topics discussed covered: