In 1996 the institutional representatives of the legal, business and accounting communities in South Africa came together in a non-profit partnership venture to provide the best process for private dispute resolution.

The Arbitration Foundation of Southern Africa (AFSA) was formed to provide fair and reliable systems to resolve disputes privately, to build panels of mediators, conciliators and arbitrators and to train and develop arbitrators and mediators. One of the objectives was to become a regional leader in international arbitration.

Over the years AFSA’s work has largely transformed the way in which the business sector handles its disputes. Today the typical business contract contains a dispute resolution clause which provides that in the event of a dispute, the parties will resolve their differences in accordance with AFSA’s rules and procedures.

AFSA has led the way in training mediators and arbitrators from all sectors of the community and in educating the community in the dynamics and the techniques of dispute resolution. AFSA’s Advanced Certificate in Alternative Dispute Resolution, accredited by and offered under the aegis of the University of Pretoria, enjoys  international recognition.
In December 2015, the fifty-one nation state members of the Forum of China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) published an Action Plan in which it was resolved to establish the China Africa Joint Arbitration Centre (CAJAC) in order to facilitate and encourage the growth of trade and investment between China and Africa by providing for an appropriate mechanism to resolve disputes which might arise between Chinese and African entities whether natural, legal, public or private. AFSA was given the responsibility, in partnership with the Shanghai International Arbitration Centre (SHIAC), to establish the China-Africa Joint Arbitration Centre (CAJAC), initially operating out of Johannesburg and Shanghai. CAJAC Johannesburg was launched in November 2015 and the CAJAC partnership has since grown to include the Beijing International Arbitration Centre (BIAC), the Shenzhen International Court of Arbitration (SCIA) and the Nairobi Centre for International Arbitration (NCIA), and OHADA the interstate Business Organisation and dispute resolution authority in West and Central Africa.

With the passage of the International Arbitration Act, No 15 of 2017, AFSA was able to establish its International Division which, within a short space of time has become a leader in the administration of international arbitration matters on the African continent.
In December 2017 AFSA and CAJAC moved to a new Arbitration and Mediation Centre, fully-equipped and furnished to provide dispute resolution facilities on par with international standards.

At  AFSA's opening in 1996 its mandate was stated in this way -

"Any objective assessment of our complex industrialized and commercial society indicates that even where an effective, efficient and professional judicial system is in place, there is yet a need at every level of society for alternative dispute resolution mechanisms.
Business has the right to know that there are legitimate mechanisms in place through which disputes may be resolved effectively, efficiently, speedily and in the most economical way possible. AFSA will fill this void and I wish it every success."
- Dullah Omar, then South Africa’s first Minister of Justice in the new democratic dispensation, speaking at the AFSA launch.
AFSA remains true to that mandate which now also extends beyond Business and beyond South Africa’s borders.
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