Harmonizing Business Laws in Africa: OHADA Calls the Tune

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OHADA (in English, Organization for Harmonization in Africa of Business Laws) is a system of business laws and implementing institutions. Sixteen West African nations adopted this regime in order to increase their attractiveness to foreign investment. Because most of the member states are former French colonies, the OHADA laws are based on the French legal system. Despite certain economists’ recent, well-publicized assertions that any French-based legal system is incompatible with development, other studies challenge those claims and in doing so outline characteristics that a pro-development system of business laws should possess. This Article reviews selected provisions from OHADA’s corporate law and of OHADA’s institutions, revealing that they correspond to those pro-development characteristics. Interviews conducted with legal professionals in Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, and Cameroon highlight the local perception that the OHADA regime, while still young, offers both technical and aspirational support for business transactions. This Article closes with a rough cut at measuring OHADA’s success even in these very early days, and with specific recommendations to strengthen the OHADA institutions.