An Introduction to African Legal Resources
Last Updated November 2013
Following is a brief description of selected African legal resources. This guide focuses on regional resources, not country-specific resources. Unlike American legal research, few resources are available online. Especially for domestic materials, researchers will often have to use materials in print. Also, it is more difficult to find very current material. Most of the databases are fee-based and available only to members of the Columbia community. For additional assistance finding African resources at Columbia's Diamond Law Library, please do not hesitate to contact the reference librarians at the Reference Desk.
The following catalogs are the most helpful for starting African legal research. For a more comprehensive description of resources please see the research guide, Finding Books and Articles on International and Foreign Law .
African books are located in the Cellar of the law library (see Cellar). They are arranged in the Schiller Classification System. Call numbers begin with the country code, generally beginning with Af. for Africa. For example Af. Tun. for Tunisia and Af. Ug. for Uganda. The call number for Egypt is Eg. Find books at the law school using Pegasus, the law school library catalog. Using the search by "Hicks/Schiller" call number function can help limit your search to books about a particular country.
Find books at other Columbia libraries by using CLIO , the Columbia University's Online Catalog.
To look beyond Columbia, search for books at other major research libraries using WorldCat (OCLC). Books found listed in these databases can often be borrowed using Interlibrary Loan. See the Reference Librarians to request Interlibrary Loan materials.
Following is a list of journal resources useful for African legal research. For a more comprehensive description of journal resources, please see the research guide, Finding Books and Articles on International and Foreign Law.
Law Journal Indexes
Full-text legal journal databases in Westlaw and Lexis cover some, but not all journals. For more extensive research, consider the following indexes.
African Studies Journal Indexes
The following indexes focus on African periodicals, but are not limited to law.
Other Relevant Journal Indexes
Public Affairs Information Services (PAIS) via the Columbia University Libraries.
Finding Full Text Journals
Full-text journals can be found by searching by the title of the journal in Pegasus or CLIO . Many African journals are only available in paper.
Some journals are available in full-text electronically via the Westlaw and
Some examples of online African journals are:
- Journal of African Law; African Human Rights Law Journal; African Journal of Legal Studies; African Law Studies; Annual Survey of South African Law; Cape Law Journal; East African Journal of Human Rights and Democracy; Journal of African Law; South African Human Rights Yearbook; South African Journal of Criminal Justice; South African Journal of Human Rights; South African Law Journal; South African Mercantile Law Journal via the Law Library's Pegasus. Note that many of these journals are available through HeinOnline, and most HeinOnline journals do not include coverage of the journal's most recent issues.
- Africa News; African Affairs; African Business; African Development Review; African Journal of Criminology and Justice Studies; African Review of Business and Technology; African Studies Quarterly; and the Journal of Contemporary African Studies via the Columbia University Libraries E-Journals Page. Note that there are over a hundred African resources available from the Columbia University Libraries, and this is just a small selection of titles available.
- African Journal of Legal Studies via Brill.
- African Journal of International and Comparative Law via Westlaw.
- Africa News and the Sunday Times and Sunday Tribune from South Africa via Lexis.
Following is a list of online legal databases, both fee-based and free. Compared to U.S. legal research, very little is available online. Researchers will need to use a combination of these online resources and paper resources, as described in the section on Books.
African Law Databases available from the Diamond Law Library
The library subscribes to the following African law databases. Most of them can be accessed from Pegasus or our Electronic Resources Page.
- Tashreaat is an Egyptian legal database providing a complete reference to Egyptian legislation, rulings of the high courts (Supreme Constitutional Court, the Court of Cassation and the Supreme Administrative Court) and related legal material from Egypt. User may also view the Egyptian Gazette, studies by prominent councils, lawyers' directory and legal news. Research is only available in Arabic. You may need to modify your display settings and change the screen resolution to 800x600 pixels to view the site.
- This African database includes access to Constitutional Library, Juta's Daily Law Reports, Juta's Digest of South African Law, Jutastat's Statutes of South Africa, the South African Law Reports (1947-current), the Law Reports of Zimbabwe, Statutes of Zimbabwe, Botswana Law Reports, Tanzania Law Reports, Zambia Law Reports, and Namibian Law Reports. Available only with the assistance of librarians, researchers should go to the reference desk to use this database.
- This database includes case law from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and the Comesa Court of Justice. It is available with the assistance of librarians. Researchers should go to the reference desk to use this database.
- This Columbia University database includes Retrospective Government Gazettes from South Africa from 1910 to 1993. It is available to all members of the Columbia University community.
Worldwide Legal Databases available from the Diamond Law Library
The library subscribes to the following worldwide law databases. Most of them can be accessed from the links below, or from Pegasus or from our Electronic Resources Page.
- This database provides information on sources of foreign law for most countries. It includes citations to legislation, references to translations when available, and select secondary sources. This database is commonly referred to as Reynolds and Flores (the names of the authors).
- Published by Oceana, this database includes the constitutions and related documents of 192 countries, and corresponds with their looseleaf set of the same name. Note that the 'print' option is located in the 'document details' section. Access is available by IP address from the Columbia Law School Campus. Only one user can use this database at a time, so please be sure to logoff of the database when you are finished with your search.
- Lexis has some useful African news databases in their Mideast/Africa Library (MDEAFR) and some legal material in their South Africa Library (SAFRCA).
- Westlaw has some useful African news databases in their Sub-Saharan Africa section and their Middle East and North Africa section, but no legal databases.
Free African Legal Databases and Websites
- The Southern African Legal Information Institute (SAFLII) collects and publishes legal materials from Southern and Eastern Africa for free online access. The current collection includes superior court judgments from Botswana, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa and Uganda. Retrospective collection for all superior courts in these countries is ongoing. The database includes cases in preparation for publishing from Mauritius, Swaziland and Tanzania.
- JurisAfrica is an online law reporting service, the property of Africa Law Reporter Online. They intend to publish judgments of the superior courts of African countries and have some online already. It also includes constitutions, statutes and legal news.
- Includes some laws from francophone Africa.
- Includes some laws from the Great Lakes region.
- Includes legislation, primarily from South Africa, in PDF form and updated regularly. Use the navigation bar at the top to select Legislation and search or browse Acts, Bills, Regulations, Policy Documents, and more. Also includes sections for Case Law and Legal Briefs.
Free Global Law Databases and Websites
- Links to international resources and resources by country.
Law by Subject
- A Columbia Law School Library guide to mega web sites that provide access to foreign law by subject. Includes links to databases specializing in human rights law, criminal law, environmental law and more.
Guides to African legal research can be very helpful if available. Also, general guides to African studies can help the legal researcher, particularly in related fields such as human rights, business and women's studies.
The Arthur W. Diamond Law Library has research guides in other subjects that may be helpful for African legal research. All guides are available from the library's Research Guides Page.