International trade law dimensions of natural resources management in Africa.

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The extraction and processing of raw materials into commodities are not only attractive for their economic value but also for political reasons. This makes natural resources a source of extreme greed. In this context, regions rich in raw materials, such as Africa, become the scene of local and foreign speculation and, instead of contributing to the development of endowed countries, natural resources often become factors of fragility – hence the ‘natural resources curse’ phrase. While countries exercise sovereignty over their resources by virtue of international law, it has also become essential to develop more sustainable activities in order to continue to exploit these resources. Cognisant of these global environmental challenges, a great number of countries in the world are committed to safeguarding the planet, as can be seen from the adoption of the African Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. At the international level, the multiplicity and complexity of legal norms applicable to the exploitation of natural resources can constitute an obstacle to their application. Indeed, while the scarcity of resources and the surge of environmental problems associated with their exploitation have led to greater reliance on international law because the stakes are global and permeate political boundaries, the corpus of international law rules is sometimes only indirectly relevant to natural resources, since they were not enacted to protect natural resources per se. This is the case of the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO), which, while not adopted for that purpose, have a bearing on trade in natural resources. While all WTO members are required to open their markets to competition from abroad, WTO-covered agreements give them a certain leeway to regulate this flow in order to pursue societal goals. In other words, under certain circumstances, a WTO member is allowed to justify otherwise WTO-inconsistent measures in the name of legitimate domestic values. This paper focuses on trade rules that control the asymmetrical global distribution and exhaustibility of natural resources, especially export restrictions and their justifications in WTO law. The objective of this paper is to analyse the international and unilateral trade measures addressing non-trade concerns and their relevance for natural resources management in Africa.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)308-354
JournalJournal of the African Union Commission on International Law
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jul 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • International Trade Law
  • WTO Law
  • WTO
  • trade in wildlife products
  • natural resources
  • Sustainable Development


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