Olabisi D. Akinkugbe, HRREC Member has received a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) as a co-applicant in the SSHRC Insight Development Grant competition. The ambitious research project entitled “Regional and National Courts and Africa’s Economic Integration: A Study of the East African Community” will be funded by SSHRC up to $66,000. SSHRC Insight Grants support research excellence in the social sciences and humanities.
The East African Court of Justice (EACJ) is designed to resolve disputes in an economic integration organization – the East African Community (EAC) – that aims to facilitate the free movement of goods and people across borders; a process deemed essential for economic development of the region. Despite being modeled after the highly successful Court of Justice of the European Union, the EACJ has struggled to advance economic integration within the EAC using its decided cases. Indeed, instead of maintaining its focus on ensuring rule of law in the economic context, the court has widened its mandate to the realm of human rights, national security and domestic governance issues, resulting in the potential backlash from the member states of the EAC.
The project which involves a co-applicant from Thompson Rivers University, and collaborators from the University of Western Cape, South Africa, and the University of Nairobi, Kenya intends to examine the role courts play in economic integration, and explore strategies to enhance their role. An objective of the project is to examine whether the socio-cultural and political context in which the EACJ operates constrains its ability to reach its full potential.
In the summer of 2017, Bisi, the co-applicant, and other members of the research team will spend time in East Africa — Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda — conducting interviews and collecting data. They hope that the research outcomes from the project will shape the context of our understanding of the role of regional courts in Africa.
Bisi, who is completing his doctoral work at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law, has been a Term Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Law, University of New Brunswick since winter, 2015. At UNB Law, he was nominated for the Faculty’s Teaching Excellence Award in the 2015-2016 academic year. He was the student representative on the HRREC Management Committee from 2014-2015 and the President of the Graduate Students in Law Association for the 2012-2013 academic year. He plans to submit his doctoral dissertation, also funded by SSHRC, in December 2016. He is excited about the generous support of the SSHRC and looks forward to sharing the outcomes of his thesis and this research project in peer-reviewed publications.