China, Africa boost legal ties: S. African lawyer

08:50, December 25, 2009      

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Legal ties between China and Africa have taken a major step forward with the conclusion of the First Forum on China-Africa Legal Co-operation in Cairo, Egypt on Monday.

Under the theme "Strengthen China-Africa Legal Exchange and Promote All Round Development of China-Africa Relationship", this forum was the first time lawyers from the China and Africa had met in such circumstances.

Greg Nott, who led the South African delegation, said on his return to Johannesburg on Thursday that he was "terribly excited by this forum and look forward to the implementation of a number of proposals tabled."

These included an exchange and cooperation between Chinese and African legal circles and a legal "think tank" to promote a universal and sustainable development of the China-Africa relationship.

Nott, who is the legal representative of the China-Africa Development Fund as well other China investor clients, said there were a number of other "ambitious and exciting proposals".

These include "the establishment of training and consulting centres as well as training projects for young African lawyers. This goes all hand-in-hand with private sector lawyers driving intellectual and legal support for business activity on both continents."

The forum was convened as the first step towards pragmatic cooperation between Chinese and African legal circles.

It was attended by delegates from Botswana, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia, as well as a strong delegation from the China Law Society.

The agenda included the important role of law in China-Africa cooperation, an introduction to the legal systems of China and African countries and their impact on trade and investment relations.

A number of prominent Egyptian and Chinese lawyers presided over the panels. The lawyers have much work to do because while China has one legal system, the 53 nations which make up Africa each have their own systems. Most are based on either the British legal system, with elements of Roman/Dutch law, or the French legal system.

There is also a strong legacy of Portuguese influence in former colonies. China's civil law system is based on traditional customs and practices, with Soviet and German influence.

Held on Dec. 20 and 21, the forum was hosted at the Cairo Regional Centre for International Commercial Arbitration.

The South African delegation included Rajen Ranchhoojee and Sheng Wu of the Johannesburg legal firm Dewey & LeBoeuf, where Nott is the managing partner.

The legal forum followed shortly after the meeting of foreign ministers at the fourth Forum on Africa China Cooperation, which was held in for Sharm-El-Sheikh, Egypt from Nov. 8 to 9.

At that meeting South African International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana Mashabane said China had played an important role in Africa's renewal. "For instance it has had significant role in peacekeeping in Africa."

She said a major strength of Chinese aid was its orientation to recipient priorities such as infrastructure (telecommunications, energy, roads) and productive sector investments (agriculture).

"Furthermore, Chinese assistance is considered to be relatively predictable assistance because it is disbursed on schedule within the intended financial year."

At that point she said development cooperation between South Africa and China is was regulated by two Agreements, "namely an agreement on Human Resource Development that was signed in 2004 and a February 2007 Agreement on Technical and Economic Cooperation".

Source: Xinhua
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