An Introduction to African Legal Resources
Last Updated October 25, 2017
This guide focuses on regional resources for the entire African continent, not country-specific resources. Many of the resources mentioned are subscription services available only to members of the Columbia Law School or Columbia University community. For assistance finding African resources at Columbia's Diamond Law Library, please do not hesitate to contact the reference librarians at the Reference Desk.
- 1 Legal scholarship - Monographs
- 2 Journal Articles
- 3 Legal Databases
- 4 Research Guides
Legal scholarship - Monographs
When researching an unfamiliar area of law, using a research guide can be a helpful first step because it will help you identify some of the resources that you may want to consult. The research guide on Finding Books and Articles on International and Foreign Law is a good place to start; the guide will walk you through the process of finding books and articles on your topic using the resources available to you both at the Law Library and the Columbia University Libraries and locating those items on campus.
At the Arthur W. Diamond Law Library, African legal scholarship, whether monographs or journals, is generally located in the Cellar of the law library. Some materials and recent journals may be found in the 3rd Floor Reserve area. Most of the materials are arranged according to the Schiller Classification System. Under this system, call numbers begin with the country code; for most African countries, the country code is Af., which denotes Africa, followed by an abbreviation for the name of the country. For example Af. Tun. for Tunisia and Af. Ug. for Uganda. The call number for Egypt is different in that it does not include the Af. designation and is merely Eg. Additionally, for South Africa, the call number is So. Af. The topical numbers following the country code also provide you with information about the item. For instance, reference sources will have a call number beginning with 0-99, statutes will have a call number beginning with 110, court reports and digests will begin with 150, etc. Find books at the law school using Pegasus, the law library catalog. Using the search by "Hicks/Schiller" call number function can help limit your search to books about a particular country. Furthermore, understanding the call number ranges as mentioned above can help you easily locate an item in the same subject matter across jurisdictions.
In addition to the law library collection, you may find African resources, both in print and on-line, by using CLIO , the Columbia University Online Catalog.
If you cannot find the resource you need for your research in either Pegasus or CLIO, remember that the reference librarians can place an interlibrary loan request to try and get an item from another University in the United States.
For a comprehensive guide to finding journal articles and using some of the resources listed below please see the research guide Finding Books and Articles on International and Foreign Law. Listed below are some of the resources that will help you locate articles on African law.
Law Journal Indexes
- Index to Legal Periodicals and Books (ILP)
- Current Index to Legal Periodicals (CILP)
- HeinOnline Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals (IFLP)
- Legal Resource Index (LRI)
African Studies Journal Indexes
The following indexes, available through CLIO or for free, focus on African periodicals, but are not limited to law.
- Africa-wide information – This database includes over 3.5 million citations and abstracts dating back to the 16th century and offers extensive coverage of all facets of Africa and African studies.
- Quarterly Index of African Periodical Literature – this source is available free through the Library of Congress and indexes over 700 selected periodicals from 29 African countries from 1991-2011.
- Africana Periodical Literature – this source is available free from Africabib.org and contains more than 17,6800 records from over 800 journals across Africa.
Other Relevant Journal Indexes
There are other more general academic journal indexes available through CLIO.
- Public Affairs Information Services (PAIS) – This indexes journal articles, books, government documents, etc. across a wide variety of topics.
- Academic Search Complete – This indexes more than 6100 full text periodicals, including more than 5100 that are peer reviewed across many different disciplines.
Finding Full Text Journals
Full-text journals can be found by searching by the title of the article in the journal in CLIO or by the title of the journal in Pegasus. Many journals are available through a variety of databases in Pegasus and in CLIO; however, some journals are only available in print.
Some examples of online African legal journals are:
- Acta juridica (South Africa)
- African human rights law journal
- African journal of international and comparative law
- African journal of legal studies
- African law studies
- Annual survey of South African law
- Cape law journal
- Comparative and international law journal of Southern Africa
- De Jure (South Africa)
- East African journal of human rights & democracy
- Haramaya law review (Ethiopia)
- Journal of African law
- Journal of legal pluralism and unofficial law
- Mizan law review (Ethiopia)
- Potchefstroom electronic law journal (South Africa)
- Scintilla iuris (South Africa)
- South African human rights yearbook
- South African law journal
- South African journal of criminal justice
- South African journal on human rights
- South African mercantile law journal
- Stellenbosch law review (South Africa)
- Strathmore law journal
- University of Botswana law journal
Note that many of these journals are available through HeinOnline. However, many of the most recent volumes of the journals may only have indexing available on HeinOnline and require reading the journal through a different database or in print.
Examples of African law journals available in print through Pegasus include:
- Addis Ababa University student law review
- Revue Scientifique du droit (Rwanda)
- SALAR law journal (Kenya)
- Students law journal (Malawi)
- The law journal (Kenya)
- TUMA law review (Tanzania)
- University of Benin law journal
Examples of online African journals available through CLIO include:
- African affairs
- African business
- African development review
- African journal of criminology and justice studies
- African research & documentation
- African studies quarterly
- Journal of African studies and development
- Journal of contemporary African studies
- Journal of modern African studies
Following is a list of online legal databases, both fee-based and free. Compared to U.S. legal research, very few African legal materials are available online. Researchers will need to use a combination of these online resources and paper resources to complete your research.
African Law Databases available from the Diamond Law Library/ Columbia University Libraries
The library subscribes to the following African law databases. Most of them can be accessed from Pegasus or our Electronic Resources Page. Most of these databases require librarian assistance. This means that you will need to consult with a reference librarian in order to use the database and will not be able to use the database when off campus.
- Egyptian Legal Portal - Al-Bawabah al-qanuniyah Librarian assistance required.
- 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. Users 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 database is temporarily unavailable.
- Juta Law (Jutastat) Librarian assistance required.
- This African database provided by the South African legal publisher Juta, includes access to Juta's Constitutional Library, Juta's Digest of South African Law, Namibian Law Reports (1990-present), The South African Law Reports (1947-present), Statutes of Zimbabwe (July 2002), Statutes and Regulations of South Africa, Statutes of Namibia, The Tanzania Law Reports (1983-1997), Juta's Unreported Judgments, Zambia Law Reports (1963-1997), and Zimbabwe Law Reports (1980-present). Please log out of the resource once you are finished using it.
- LawAfrica.com Librarian assistance required.
- LawAfrica includes case law from Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. Access is provided to the LawAfrica Law Reports (LLR), Odunga's Digest, Uganda Law Reports (ULR), Tanzania Law Reports (TLR), East Africa Law Reports (EALR), East Africa Court of Appeal Reports (EACA), East Africa General Reports (EAGR), East Africa Protectorate Law Reports (EAPLR), Company Registry Search, and Uganda Law Society Reports (ULSR). Please log out when you finish using the database.
- This database available through Columbia University Libraries includes access to Government Gazettes (1994-2017), Provincial Gazettes, Retrospective Government Gazettes (1910-1993), and some Sabinet African Electronic Publications.
Worldwide Legal Databases available from the Diamond Law Library
- This database provides information on sources of foreign law for about 190 countries. It includes citations to legislation, references to translations when available, and select references to secondary sources. This database is commonly referred to as Reynolds and Flores (the names of the authors).
- A continually growing database of laws from about 90 countries that translates laws into English using machine translation from Google and Microsoft. Some African countries including Nigeria, Botswana, Kenya, Senegal, Madagascar, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe are covered.
- This database includes the text of the constitution of most countries in the world in the official language of the country. English translations and some historical versions of constitutions are also provided.
- Lexis Advance has migrated some of the materials that they had on their Lexis.com platform to Lexis Advance. Lexis Advance does have materials for several African countries. Many of these countries only have general news items available and the coverage of these news sources varies widely. Lexis does include South Africa case law from Butterworths South African Constitutional Law Reports (June 1991 – current) and South Africa Tax Cases (March 31, 1920 through 1998 and a few cases preceding 1917-18). South Africa Legislation is available in Butterworths Statutes of South Africa (1912-July 2014).
- Westlaw has a limited amount of African legal information. Westlaw does have the documents issued by International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda from 1995 through July 2007. Additionally, Westlaw has the 2nd Edition (2008) of Constitutional Law of South Africa, which is a treatise on South African constitutional law. Westlaw also has some journals that cover Africa, including the African Journal of International and Comparative Law, African Journal of Legal Studies, and Journal of African Law.
Free African Legal Databases and Websites
- AfricanLII is a project of the Democratic Governance Rights Unit at the Department of Public Law, Faculty of Law at the University of Cape Town. The goal of the project is to promote free access of the law throughout Africa. For several countries, the website links to country specific Legal Information Institutes like SAFLII. For other countries, there are links and descriptions to resources that will provide legal information for that country in different areas of law.
- This site provides free access to legal information from all Commonwealth countries, including many African Countries.
- The South African Legal Information Institute publishes legal information for members of the public to access for free. Most of the materials are case law from South Africa. However, there are legal materials from other countries including Angola, Botswana, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Additionally, SAFLII includes Law Journals, and some Regional Courts of Justice including COMESA, East African Court of Appeal, East African Court of Justice, and SADC Tribunal.
- Includes some laws from the Great Lakes region.
- Includes some laws from francophone Africa.
- 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 Supreme Court decisions from Francophone African countries.
- Run by the National Council for Law Reporting, which is a semi-autonomous state corporation under the Judiciary, this site provides access to Kenya's Public Legal Information including the Laws of Kenya, Cases, Tribunals, and more.
- The content is available as an Open Access collection, and includes gazettes from Algeria, Congo (Rep.), Iran, Iraq, Libya, Morocco, Mozambique, Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan, and Zimbabwe. Though CRL’s primary focus of scanning was “independence forward,” it includes numerous gazettes from earlier time periods and predecessor states (such as British Somaliland and Southern Rhodesia).
- Offers free access to South African legislation, policy documents, and daily political news. The site provides PDF images of legislation from the Government Gazette. Also includes case law from the Constitutional Court, Supreme Court of Appeal, and High Courts.
Free Global Law Databases and Websites
- Published by the Hauser Global Law School Program at NYU School of Law, GlobaLex is an electronic legal publication dedicated to international and foreign law research. The guides and articles are written by scholars who are well known in their fields. Under the listing for Foreign Law Research, you can find countries listed in alphabetical order.
- Guide to Law Online from the Library of Congress.
- Prepared by the Law Library of Congress Public Services Division, this resource is an annotated guide to sources of legal information available online by country. Links to international resources and resources by country are provided.
- This site provides links to law online. You can find links to African resources under All regions and then choosing Africa.
Law by Subject
- A Columbia Law School Library guide to beginning your foreign legal research and finding websites and databases that help you research foreign law by subject.
When you are researching an unfamiliar area of law, a research guide can be a very helpful tool to use. Guides to African legal research and guides to African studies in general may provide assistance.
- Prepared by Columbia University Libraries, this guide includes resources for performing African studies research.
- Guide available through Globalex that helps identify online resources for legal materials from African countries.
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.