The Role of the Africa Justice Foundation in Building the Capacity of Government Lawyers to Promote Justice in Africa through Education, Skills Training and Work Placements

Paper presented at the 2013 CLEA Conference in Durban

Chris Lane
Africa Justice Foundation, UK

Sub-Saharan Africa has witnessed a current of almost perpetual change in
countries’ political and economic systems over the past half-century. However, historically, little interest has been devoted to the legal systems upon which those political and economic systems depend.

This is changing.

The law is the ‘invisible’ infrastructure, as important as energy, transport and security infrastructure. Evidence clearly suggests that legal infrastructure is connected to economic growth.

A system of just laws is also a key requirement to achieving true access to justice. There is no one-size-fits-all concept of a system of just laws, but it suggests a system based on principles of legal certainty, fairness and equal treatment. This is critical, not just in terms of the state-citizen relationship, but also in the spheres of government-to-business,business-to-business and business-to-citizen relations. A system of just laws is the foundation upon which prosperity is built and shared. It plays a key role in both the attraction of foreign investment and also the promotion of a fair, rational space for domestic entrepreneurs and businesses.

However, good laws do not write themselves. The world over, governments rely on lawyers to advise on, draft and interpret legislation, but African governments often face challenges in recruiting, retaining and training effective legal support. The proportion of national resources available for legal capacity is much smaller than in industrialised countries.

AJF works with government partners to improve the capacity of government
lawyers, through education, skills training and work placements. This makes a difference. It improves technical knowledge and drafting skills, enhances commercial awareness, and helps build confidence for negotiations with international investors and diplomats. The medium-term aim must be to develop education and skills training opportunities in-country.

Public legal capacity matters, makes a difference and represents an innovative and value for money investment for Africa’s development.

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