The massive potential of Africa, with its youthful and innovative populations and abundant natural resources, will only be unlocked if the rule of law is strengthened, said an expert panel discussing the findings of a new report. Advancing the Rule of Law in Africa 2022, produced by LexisNexis in partnership with Africa Legal, resulted from a survey of legal professionals across 24 African nations.
“For me, the future is African,” said Aisha Abdallah, a partner at ALN Kenya | Anjarwalla & Khanna. She was discussing the outlook for the continent and the hurdles it faced, during the latest virtual Rule of Law Café, hosted by LexisNexis South Africa on 15 February.
The rule of law is not limited to government and courts, nor solely about human rights and access to justice, noted the panel. It also provides a foundation for conducting business in a reliable and profitable manner, and is key for peace, justice and prosperity for any nation.
Chaired by South African broadcaster Jeremy Maggs, the panel also included Brenda Mutale Chanda, the co-managing partner of Moira Mukaka Legal Practitioners in Zambia, Judith Kagere of KTA Advocates in Uganda, and Mellony Ramalho of LexisNexis South Africa.
“Adherence to the rule of law is and always will be essential for attracting businesses and investment into a jurisdiction,” commented Ramalho. “Without the rule of law, economies will have a hard time developing and the citizens of nations will continue to suffer disproportionately.”
For Chanda, the biggest hurdle to the advancement of the rule of law across Africa is corruption and weak democratic institutions, a view endorsed by the report. But while governments should lead, a multi-faceted approach is required to enhance the rule of law.
“Governments have the responsibility to create the various democratic institutions that help in the governance of a country, but every sector of a country is supposed to participate in enhancing and maintaining the rule of law,” she argued, noting that the rule of law transcends human rights. It also applies to the interpretation of contracts and other everyday transactions.
Ramalho emphasised that a fair justice system is needed across the African continent for all: for people in the street, for governments and for businesses.
Technology can play a key role in the enhancement of the rule of law, noted Kagere, but she reminded the audience that it does not work in a vacuum. Electronic filings in court proceedings and ministries can be an enabler of the rule of law, but only if citizens have access to the technology.
But in the end, said Abdallah, technology is merely a tool. It can be used for good or bad – and while touted as a solution to corruption, it can be undermined from the inside. “People are the answer to corruption. Values are the answer to corruption.”
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