To Agree or Not to Agree in Writing

Transactions are increasingly becoming more international. The emphasis on well-thought out commercial agreements between parties varies depending on the jurisdiction. There are various factors at play here: standard practice, statutory requirements, culture and trends. Living in an increasingly globalized world, we would argue that it is very important for commercial arrangements to be documented. Not only does it ensure that both parties think carefully through all the key issues and structure the project in a way that is more likely to guarantee success. As a result of the process they are more likely to invite a professional third party to review the agreement, which can also flag some issues that may have been overlooked and prevent unnecessary waste of resources and disappointment.

Some argue that this process takes too long, and it’s all business between colleagues who know the ropes anyway. In such cases, we would argue that it would be to their benefit and the benefit of the team to have the arrangements documented in order to ensure the sustainability and continuity of the project in the future.

For those that are not as well acquainted in doing business with one another, it is equally a must to document commercial arrangements, once the necessary due diligence has been conducted. First of all it ensures that both parties really understand the terrain and scope of the transactions they are getting involved in, as well as the rights and responsibilities of both parties.

The key issues that need to be addressed in most commercial contracts with regard to the supply of goods or services are: the authoritative language of the contractual terms, Payment, Shipment of Goods, Governing law, Force Majeure, and agreeing on the body that will resolve any issues arising out of the contract (Jurisdiction).

Some may say, “but these are all the clauses we have to deal with when doing work with parties all based in the same country, so what is the difference?”

International contracts clearly have the same objective as more localized contracts, but the complexity and the definition of key terms need to be negotiated and agreed very explicitly due to the varying interpretation of clauses and legal concepts in different jurisdictions.

To agree in writing? A definite, yes from our end.

Defining Development

What is development? Undoubtedly it means different things to different people. At the end of the day though there is one thing that must happen. The life of the beneficiary needs to be made better on a certain level in a manner that is sustainable. Some may say that only applies to a specific kind of development. Sustainable development. We would argue that development needs to do a number of things: 1) raise the consciousness of the individual or community about the issue at hand; 2) analyse the issue in a scientific manner but also take account of the culture concerned; and 3) collectively suggest solutions that are accepted as benefitting the individual and community as a whole. Consensus and Stakeholdership (if there is such a word) are key.

Its not one party simple instructing another. Its a consultation. Its throwing the issues out there, discussing them and coming up with solutions collectively. The solutions are not just ideas, although they start as ideas, the solutions needs to be implemented with an action plan that can be executed on the ground and can be carried on. It needs to be possible for the people in question. It needs to be organic. It needs to make sense. Several parties need to contribute and benefit from it.

We saw this clearly when conducting our case study on the Home Grown School feeding program in Kano. The Kano State school feeding programme commenced in 1999 and is estimated to feed over 1,600,000 pupils enrolled in all public primary schools in the State. The programme has not been continuous it stops and starts and is affected by changes in administration.

However, the strengths of the programme lie in the fact that it is community-based and community-run. The structure of the programme ensures that the funds are used for the implementation of the programme. Like any programme it has its challenges, but they are being worked on, and the success in terms of feeding children, providing employment to caterers, and increasing literacy rates in Kano State has been unquestionable.