Forms of Signature
A signature is one way of expressing consent to a contract and authenticating its contents. Seal can make a signature by hand, by fingerprint, or by any other means that identifies the person signing. A signature can also be electronic, if it meets certain requirements of reliability and security.
The Ethiopian Electronic Signature Proclamation No. 816/2013 regulates the use of electronic signatures in electronic transactions and communications. It defines an electronic signature as “data in electronic form affixed to or logically associated with an electronic message which may be used to identify the signatory in relation to the electronic message and to indicate the signatory’s approval of the information contained in the electronic message.” The Proclamation also establishes a legal presumption that an electronic signature is valid and authentic if it is signed with a reliable electronic signature.
A reliable electronic signature is one that meets the following criteria: (1) it is uniquely linked to the signatory; (2) it is capable of identifying the signatory; (3) it is created using means that the signatory can maintain under his sole control; and (4) it is linked to the electronic message to which it relates in such a manner that any subsequent change of the data is detectable.
Therefore, signature under Ethiopian contract law can be either manual or electronic, depending on the nature and form of the contract and the parties’ preferences. However, both types of signatures must comply with the relevant legal requirements and standards to ensure their validity and enforceability.
Examples of Contracts that require a specific form in Ethiopia
Construction contracts: According to the Ethiopian Civil Code, construction contracts must be made in writing and must contain certain essential elements, such as the description of the work, the price, the time limit, and the guarantees.
Marriage contracts: According to the Ethiopian Family Code, marriage contracts must be made in writing and must be registered with the competent authority. The marriage contract must also comply with the requirements of consent, capacity, and form.
Adoption contracts: According to the Ethiopian Family Code, adoption contracts must be made in writing and must be approved by a court. The adoption contract must also meet the conditions of eligibility, consent, and suitability.
Public procurement contracts: According to the Ethiopian Public Procurement and Property Administration Proclamation No. 649/2009, public procurement contracts must be made in writing and must follow the prescribed procedures and forms. The public procurement contract must also adhere to the principles of transparency, accountability, fairness, and efficiency.
The Consequences of not complying with form Requirements
The consequences of not following the required form of contract in Ethiopia may vary depending on the type and nature of the contract and the parties involved. However, some possible consequences are:
Invalidity of the contract: If the law requires a specific form for a contract to be valid, such as a written or registered contract, then failing to comply with that form may render the contract invalid or void. This means that the contract has no legal effect and cannot be enforced by either party.
Lack of evidence: If the law does not require a specific form for a contract to be valid, but only for evidentiary purposes, such as an oral contract, then failing to comply with that form may make it difficult or impossible to prove the existence and terms of the contract in case of a dispute. This may result in losing one’s rights or claims under the contract.
Penalties or sanctions: If the law imposes penalties or sanctions for not following the required form of a contract, such as a public procurement contract, then failing to comply with that form may expose the parties to legal liability or disciplinary action. This may include fines, damages, termination of the contract, disqualification from future tenders, or criminal prosecution.
To avoid these consequences, you should:
Know the legal requirements: Before entering into a contract, you should research and understand the legal requirements for the form and content of the contract in Ethiopia. You can consult a lawyer or a legal expert for guidance and advice.
Follow the legal requirements: When drafting and signing a contract, you should follow the legal requirements for the form and content of the contract in Ethiopia. You should use clear and precise language, include all the essential elements, and comply with any formalities or procedures.
Keep a record of the contract: After entering into a contract, you should keep a record of the contract and any related documents or communications. You should also register or notarize the contract if required by law. This will help you to prove and enforce the contract in case of a dispute.