Volume 23 (2015) / Issue 1
J.H. Herbots, 'Les contrats commerciaux OHADA dans une perspective congolaise. Vers un droit général commun des obligations contractuelles?' (2015) 23 European Review of Private Law, Issue 1, pp. 47–80
Abstract: The economists agree that actually the African economies did take off. A further growth, however, needs investments. Attracting these investments is precisely one of the purposes of the African Union with her 54 Member States and of - in a geographically more limited area - the OHADA, the organization for the harmonization of business law in mainly French-speaking Africa. The originality of the OHADA consists in the adoption of uniform Acts, which apply in all 17 Member States. It is only fair to say that through these uniform statutes the influence of France
and that of the French juridical culture are perpetuated in Africa.
In this paper, the OHADA legislation is described, more specifically from the perspective of one of the Member States, namely the Democratic Republic of Congo, the former Belgian colony. An overview of the uniform Acts relating to the following commercial contracts is given: sale, arbitration agreement, carriage of goods by land, lease for professional purposes, lease of the management of a business, agency and brokerage, pledge, surety, and other guarantees. The uniform Acts modernize the outdated law of the Member States. Some of the introduced innovations are the Trade and Personal Property Credit Register and the Trustee for the guarantees.
The French law as it stands in our days (including e.g. the trust-like device of the "fiducie") serves as a model, but so does the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (CISG) and the UNIDROIT Principles. The latter is not faithfully followed, though. For instance, the remedy of the anticipatory breach (provided for in the CISG) did disappear out of the revised uniform Act relating to the general commercial law. The unilateral avoidance for breach of contract (provided for in the UNIDROIT Principles), on the other hand, is only by exception allowed and the exceptional circumstances are not defined. The creditor must normally thus apply to the court for an order resolving the contract.
The non-commercial special contracts continue to be regulated by the national law of each Member State. This can produce odd effects, so is the ownership of the goods sold transferred to the buyer at the very moment of the agreement of the contracting parties according to the Congolese Civil Code, while the ownership of the goods sold in Congo by commercial contract takes place at the moment of the delivery since the joining of the OHADA. In the present state of affairs, the general law of contracts (as opposed to the OHADA special rules for the different nominate contracts) remains also part of the national law of the Member States. Obviously, this has to change by all means, if one wants the harmonization of the commercial contracts. This article deals therefore also with a text that should become the cornerstone of the OHADA legislation, i.e., the preliminary draft on general contract law. It follows as close as possible the UNIDROIT Principles and there are good reasons for this, as explained by the draughts man professor M. Fontaine. Unfortunately, this draft is momentarily blocked off backstage by some lawyers steeped in the myth of the French legal culture. It may indeed seem hard to imagine, for instance, that the causa disappears! But then also does the consideration in the UNIDROIT Principles.
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