Sources of Online Legal Information for African Countries

By Jane Williams

Jane Williams is Foreign, Comparative and International Law Librarian at Albert E. Jenner, Jr. Memorial Law Library. She holds a JD & MSLS from the Wayne State University (Detroit).

Published June 2006
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Table of Contents

I. Introduction

II. Secondary Sources

III. Primary Sources

     A. Regional Collections

     B. Subject Collections

     C. Resources by Country

IV. Regional Organizations

The purpose of this article is to identify online resources for locating the legal materials of African states.  It will first identify meta-sites useful both for background information and links to legal information.  The next part will identify secondary sources which can help locate sources and issues.  The third section will list primary sources grouped by region, topic, and country.  The final part will list the web sites of some African regional organizations.

I. Introduction

Africa has about fifty four states plus six dependent territories.  The post-colonial period for much of the continent has been characterized by political instability, civil strife, war, economic underdevelopment, and weak legal systems.  Thus, only a few African countries have a good history of publishing and disseminating legal materials.  A useful source for determining what legislative materials are published for each jurisdiction is the Reynolds and Flores[1] treatise. It is also available as an online subscription

In the past decade there has been a trend in some countries toward better governance and transparency.  Increasing numbers of governments have web sites and/or parliamentary sites, some of which provide news, government reports, and other documents. Meta sites which include links to governments’ web sites, country information, and legal information include the following:

·       The Commonwealth Legal Information Institute (CommonLII) provides searchable databases and a catalogue of web sites of the legal materials of Commonwealth and common law countries including about seventeen African states. 

·       Droit francophone is a similar effort for French speaking countries, including about fifteen in Africa.

·       Guide to Law Online from the Library of Congress includes links to constitutions, government sites, and country information.

·       The World Law Guide has collections of links for legislation and cases.

·       The World Legal Information Institute has an up to date web site which provides a directory of government pages and legal information web sites organized by country and region.

·       Guide to Law Online from the Library of Congress includes links to constitutions, government sites, and country information.

Several projects are underway which should increase access to African legal materials.  These include the following:

·       JurisAfrica is an online law reporting service owned by African Law Reporter Online.  It intends to publish constitutions, judgments of the superior courts, legislation and articles.  Currently there are only a few items available, most of them relate to land law.

·       NTIPO (Numérisation et Traitement Informatisé desPublications Officielles) is a project designed to increase access to African legal materials.  NTIPO currently has pilot projects underway for Niger, Djibouti, Mauritania, and Congo (Republic).

II. Secondary Sources

Given that there are a limited number of comprehensive databases or internet sites for the legal materials of African countries and that few law libraries have complete collections, secondary materials are important for identifying issues, recent developments, and documents.  These include news sources, indexes and library and institute catalogues, journals, and papers. 

News Sources

· aggregates news sources from African organizations and elsewhere.  A basic version with a topical search function is freely available.  By subscribing one has access to an archive going back to 1996 and the ability to search by key word, category, publisher and/or date. 

·       Jurist from the University of Pittsburg provides country by country legal news for about a dozen African countries.

·       The BBC News Africa service is another good source for current information.  This service also includes country profiles with country overviews, basic facts and political information, and list of newspapers and other media.

·       The African Law Firm Network, Lex Africa, provides legal news and informational pieces about commercial matters.

Indexes and Catalogues

·       General online indexes with references to articles relating to legal issues include the two databases from AfricaBib:  Bibliography of Africana Periodical Literature and African Women’s Bibliographic Databases.  Both can be searched by geographic region, periodical, subject, author, title, keyword and/or date.  A few articles link to full text.

·       The Quarterly Index of African Periodical Literature from the Library of Congress is another general Africana index which includes references to law related articles.

·       The African Studies Centre (Leiden) is an independent institute which researches social science issues relating to Africa.  Its library catalogue identifies monographs, articles, and book chapters some of which are related to law.  The web site also includes the full text of working papers and other publications.

III. Primary Sources

One can find online legal materials for African countries in fee based databases, within subject or regional collections, and on various country specific sites.  Few of the internet sites are comprehensive and it can sometimes be difficult to determine the currency of the information. 

A. Regional Collections

·       The International Documentation Network on the Great African Lakes Region is an interesting collection of materials from a variety of governmental and nongovernmental sources.  Included are Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda.  A search may locate laws and decrees although it is somewhat difficult to determine what material is included.  Note too that if French, not English, is one of the official languages of a country a search in French will generate more results for primary legal materials for that country.

· (Investir en zone franc) was developed in 1998 by the Commission de l’Union Économique et Monétaire Ouest Africaine (UEMOA) and the Secrétariat Exécutif de la Communauté Économique et Monétaire de l’Afrique Centrale (CEMAC).  UEMOA has eight members:  Benin, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Guinea Bisseau, Mali, Niger, Senegal, and Togo.  CEMAC has six: Cameroon, Congo (Brazzaville), Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, the Central African Republic, and Chad. 

The individual country sites include links to various full texts or summaries of codes and pieces of legislation.  In addition, some national legislation which implements CEMAC decisions are published in Les Journauax Officiels.

B. Subject Collections

Agriculture, food and natural resources

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations provides three databases:

·       FAOLex is an up to date data base of national laws and regulations relating to food, agriculture, and natural resources.  It includes most African countries and provides links to full text documents. 

·       FishLex provides laws and regulations on coastal state requirements for foreign fishing.   

·       WaterLex has international agreements on water resources.

Competition law

·       The International Bar Association’s Global Competition Forum provides the competition laws of those African countries which have one.

·       United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Competition and Consumer Policies web site includes the competition legislation for Kenya, Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.


·       Constitution Finder from the University of Richmond

·       International Constitutional Law

Copyright, Patents, and Trademarks

·       UNESCO’s Collection of Copyright Laws includes the laws of about twenty African countries. 

·       The Collection of Laws for Electronic Access from the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) provides texts for copyright, trademarks and patent legislation in English, French, and Spanish.  WIPO’s collection of copyright legislation overlaps somewhat with the UNESCO collection but it also includes about a dozen countries not included in the UNESCO database.

Criminal Law

Prevent Genocide International provides domestic legislation on the crime of genocide for seven African countries.


The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime provides an Online Legal Library of drug legislation which countries have passed to implement international drug conventions.

Health Law

The International Digest of Health Legislation from the World Health Organization (WHO) is a searchable database with either links to full text or citations to official sources.

Humanitarian law

The International Committee of the Red Cross provides two databases on international humanitarian law:

·       The Treaty Databases includes the four Geneva Conventions, their protocols and ratification information. 

·       The National Implementation Database has two parts.  The first provides legislation relating to humanitarian law, including relevant penal provisions and laws relating to war crimes and the military.  The second part provides related case law. 

Investment and Trade

The Investment Promotion Network (IPAnet) includes laws and regulations for a few African countries which are relevant to investors, including those relating to trade, foreign investment, and taxes.  It also provides business law overviews for most countries.

Labor Law

The International Labour Organization (ILO) database NATLEX provides labor laws as well as laws on other subjects such as economic and social policy, free trade, and criminal law.  Some of the sites provide full text in English, Spanish or French while others just provide citations.

Non-Profit Law

The International Center for Not-for-Profit Law provides the text of laws governing various issues related to non-governmental organizations, including about twenty two African countries.  One must register to use the site but otherwise the documents are freely available.

Occupational Safety and Health

ILO’s International Occupational Safety and Health Information Centre provides bibliographic information for legislative texts relating to various areas of occupational safety.


Privatization Link, from the World Bank Group Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency, offers privatization laws and regulations for some African countries and explanatory materials for most of them.


RefLeg is a database from the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees which provides the full text of national laws implementing the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol.  It also includes laws on citizenship, nationality, statelessness, human rights and related issues.

Tax and Commercial Law

World Wide Tax Service from Thompson RIA is a subscription service which includes tax and commercial laws for most African countries.  The currency of the material, however, is sometimes questionable.

C. Resources by Country



·       Lex Algeria, the Algerian law portal, includes selected codes relating to public and private law as well as jurisprudence from the Conseil Constitutionnel from 1989 and the Conseil d’Etat from 1999.  Some decisions are in English but the French and Arabic versions are more comprehensive.

Law and Legislation.

·       Journal Officiel de la République Algérienne Démocratique et Populaire is a weekly publication of laws, treaties,  ordinances,  ministerial decrees, and notices.  It is available from 1962 and is browsable by date.

Research Guide

·       Dahmène Touchent, “Algerian Law Guide”


Law and Legislation

·       The Assembleia Nacional web site provides a list of sessions laws from 1992 through 2002 with a few links to full text documents.

·       The Ministry of Commerce (Ministério do Comércio) provides commercial legislation and information on recent legislative proposals.


Law and Legislation

· provides legislative documents for a fee in PDF format.  The main menu indicates Constitutional Court decisions are available for 1991-2003 but at the time of this writing only brief information is available for each decision.  Presumably these too will only be available for a fee.

·       The Assemblée Nationale web site includes a few acts from 1999 and 2000 most of which appear to concern the implementation of international and other agreements


·       La Cour Suprême provides selected cases from 1999 and 2000.


Law and Legislation

·       The Bank of Botswana includes banking laws and regulations.

·       The Legislative Drafting Division of the Attorney General’s Chambers provides a list of recent bills and acts with citations to the Government Gazette but there are no full text links.

·       The Department of Environmental Affairs provides a list of environmental laws and contact information.

·       The Telecommunications Authority provides the Telecommunications Act (1996), the Telecommunications Act Amendment (2004), the Broadcasting Act of 1996, and telecommunications and broadcasting regulations.

·       The Department of Mines links to the Mines and Minerals Act and the Export and Import of Rough Diamonds regulations.

Burkina Faso

Law and Legislation

·       Banque de Données Juridiques du Burkina provides Le Journal Officiel from 1993.  It includes laws, ordinances, decrees, decisions, notices and other official government communications and is searchable by key word, type of material and body issuing the document, and citation to the JO.  The site also provides several codes (elections, civil procedure, mining, insurance, and labor).

·       The Premier Ministère web site includes a list of the web sites of other government ministries.  Several of these provide legislation relating to their area of responsibility.


·       JuriBurkina provides selected judgments from the Cour de Cassation, Conseil Constitutionnel, Conseil d’Etat, Cour d’appel de Bobo Dioulasso, Tribunal du Travail de Ouagadougou, Tribunal de Travail de Bobo Dioulasso and Tribunal de Grande Instance de Bobo Dioulasso.


Law and Legislation

·       Droit francophone provides selected legislation from 1979-2000.


Law and Legislation

·       The Prime Minister’s Office web site provides a searchable collection of laws, ordinances, decrees, orders and decisions.  The site can be viewed in French or English but some material is only available in French.

Cape Verde

Law and Legislation

·       The Ministério das Finanças e Planeamento site includes a link to the tax code and an index of legislation from 1990-1998. 

·       The Ministério da Educação site provides some education legislation. 

·       The Polícia de Ordem Pública site links to some police legislation.

·       The Juventude e Desportos site includes a list of legislation relevant to its jurisdiction but does not include full text.

Central African Republic

Law and Legislation

·       Bibliotheque Virtuelle provides the text of several codes, including mining, petroleum, forests, and investment with others under construction.


Law and Legislation

·       Droit francophone includes selected legislation from 1935-1996.


·       Droit francophone also has selected decisions from the Cour d’appel (1969-1996) and a few from the Tribunal du travail.

Congo (Brazzaville)

Law and Legislation

·       The official web site includes an investment section which provides links to the Code d’investissement and Code Forestier.

Congo (Democratic Republic)


·       The Global Legal Information Network (GLIN) provides full text of legislation (1968-2006) and judicial decisions (1972-2004).


Law and Legislation

·       Le Journal Officiel, available from 1996, includes laws, presidential and ministerial ordinances, decrees and orders, announcements and legal orders.  It can be searched by date, subject index and type of legal document.

·       Droit francophone has a large collection of laws for the period 1971-2003.


Law and Legislation

·       The government web portal has several laws in English translation, including Environment Law, Law of Investment Guarantees and Incentives, Labour Law, General Sales Tax, and Central Securities Depository and Registry Law.


Law and Legislation

·       Droit francophone provides some legislation for some years since 1969 until 1995.

·       Le Sénat Gabonais web site includes laws from 2003-2005 with plans to add prior years.  The site also includes documents relating to the Parliament’s work.

·       L’Assemblée Nationale includes a list of laws from 1997 but it does not provide full text.


Subscription database

·       The Ghana Law Database, provided by DataCenta Ltd, includes laws of the Fourth Republic (1992-), the Consolidated Statutes of Ghana, business and financial laws, all volumes of the Ghana Law Reports,  four law journals, and  legal news.  The Ghana Law Reports, however, have not been published since 1994.


·       Legislation and bills from the current session can also be found on the Parliament web site.


·       CommonLII provides selected Ghana land law decisions.

·       The Ministry of Justice and Attorney General’s Department provides links to a few Supreme Court decisions, some legislation and opinion pieces.

Research Guide

·       Victor Essien, “Researching Ghanaian Law”


Law and Legislation

·       The web site Investir en Guinée provides links to Le Code Minier and Le Code des Investissements.

·       Droit francophone includes a few pieces of legislation from 1991.

Ivory Coast

Law and Legislation

·       L’Assemblée Nationale de Cĉte d’Ivoire provides laws from 2001 and other parliamentary materials.

·       Droit francophone has selected legislation from 1927-2002.



·       Kenya Law Reports from the National Council for Law Reporting provides an up to date edition of the Laws of Kenya in a searchable database.  It also includes the Kenya Gazette from 2003.  One can also search for cases from 1971 but printing is not available once a decision is published in the Kenya Law Reports.

Subscription databases

·       Laws of Kenya provides a comprehensive, up to date collection of laws and subsidiary legislation on a pay per minute basis.  Laws current to January 2006 can be downloaded at not charge with an option to buy updates.

·       Africa Law Reports from LawAfrica includes judgments from Kenya’s courts.


Law and Legislation

·       The government web site includes acts from 1992 plus some earlier years. 

·       CommonLII provides some legislation for 1981 and 1994-2000.


Law and Legislation

·       The National Elections Commission web site provides links to election laws and regulations.



·       Le Conseil Constitutionnel provides selected decrees and jurisprudence.


Law and Legislation

·       L’Assemblée nationale website includes acts from 1994 to date.  Searchable but not browse-able except by entering a year as a search term.

·       The Ministère de la Justice web site has laws for 2004 (click on the nouvelles de la Justice tab) and various other codes and laws (click on the vos droits tab).

·       Ministère de l‘Energie et des Mines provides mining and related environmental legislation.

·       Droit francophone includes selected legislation for the years 1953-2000 with some scattered earlier years.

·       The Ministère de l’Economie, des Finances et du Budget has a large collection of codes, laws, and regulations but at this time the links are not reliable.

·       The Annual Review of Population Law includes various laws relating to population and family law.


·       Haute Cour Constitutionnelle makes decisions available from 1996.


Law and Legislation

·       The Privatisation Commission provides links to the privatisation act and regulations.


·       The judiciary web site provides civil and criminal judgments from the High Court (1995-2003). 

·       Decisions of the Industrial Relations Court (2000-2003) are available from CommonLII


Law and Legislation

·       As part of PRODEJ (Programme Décennal de Développement de la Justice) the Ministry of Justice provides the text of major codes, other recently adopted legislation, and other legal texts.

·       Droit francophone has selected legislation from 1959-2000.

Research Guide

·       Dahmène Touchent, “Guide to Legal Research in Mali”


Law and Legislation

·       GLIN provides the text of over five hundred laws, decrees and ministerial orders from 1963.

·       L’Autorité de Régulation web site has laws relating to the postal service and telecommunications and ministerial decrees and decisions.


Law and Legislation

·       The National Assembly provides current bills and their status.

·       The government portal site provides a collection of links to laws and regulations posted on other government agencies’ web sites.

·       The Supreme Court website includes legislation, bills, and regulations from 2003. 

·       CommonLII includes legislation for 2003-2005.

·       The Institute for Environmental and Legal Studies website provides links to laws relating to environmental protection, occupational health and safety, and town and country planning.


·       The Supreme Court includes selected civil and criminal judgments from the Court of Rodrigues, the district courts, and the industrial courts.  CommonLII provides a search engine for these decisions.


Law and Legislation

·       Ministère de l’Aménagement du Territoire de l’Eau et de l’Environment has environmental and forestry laws and other legislation.

·       The Ministère de la Justice provides the text of codes (family, commerce, labor, and intellectual property), a few acts, and other legislative documents.

Research Guide

·       Dahmène Touchent, “Guide to the Morocco Legal System”


Law and Legislation

·       LexMozambique consists of the Boletim da República (1975-2004).  The search engine allows searching by type of document, name, issuing body and/or subject or one can browse by date and issue.  Using the site requires registration but as of now downloading the documents is free.

·       Namibia

Subscription database

·       Juta provides subscription services to the current consolidation of statutes and to the Namibian Law Reports for decisions of all superior courts since independence in 1990.

Law and Legislation

·       The Parliament website includes selected acts for 1990-1992 and 2002 to the present, bills from the current Parliament, and other legislative materials.

·       The government web site ministry index has links to offices, agencies, and ministries, some of which provide legislation relating to their area of authority.  Thus far those with some legislation on their sites include the Ministry of Labour, Ministry of Mines and Energy, and the Ministry of Trade and Industry,

·       CommonLII provides laws from 1991-1992, 1995, and 2002-2005.


·       Decisions from the Supreme Court are available for 2005 from the South African Legal Information Institute (SALII).



·       Droit francophone has selected Supreme Court decisions from 1962-1994.



·       Nigeria Law provides  federal laws still in force and the Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (2000), a list of laws passed from 1990 to 2000 that are still in force as of 2000,  and procedural rules for the various courts  It also includes decisions from the Nigerian Law Reports and other judgments.

Research Guide

·       Yemisi Dina, John Oluwole A. Akintayo, & Funke Ekundayo, “Guide to Nigerian Legal Information”


Law and Legislation

·       The Ministry of Local Government, Community Development and Social Affairs includes laws relating to decentralization

·       The National Bank of Rwanda links to the Banking Act and foreign exchange regulation.

Special Tribunal

·       The official we site for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda offers basic legal texts, case information, forms, and a public records judicial database.

Sao Tome and Principe


·       The Diário da República electronic edition is available from 2000.  One can browse by issue and date or search by key word or citation.

·       juriStep provides the text of labor, petroleum, and industrial property laws and summaries of other legislation.



·       The official government web site includes ten online codes and recent official texts such as presidential and ministerial decrees.



·       The Ministry of Environment provides several environmental protection laws.

·       The International Business Authority has put business related and commercial laws and double taxation agreements on its web site.

Sierra Leone


·       Peter Andersen’s Sierra Leone Web includes a selection of laws from 1999 (plus a few older ones) and information about the government.

Special Tribunal

·       The official web site of the Special Court for Sierra Leone provides documents, cases and other materials.

South Africa

Subscription databases

·       Juta has several internet and CD-ROM products which provide comprehensive access to both government and provincial legal materials.

·       LexisNexis Butterworths South Africa is another major provider of South African legal materials.

·       Sabinet provides full text access to government and provincial gazettes and parliamentary bills.

Law and Legislation

·       The Parliament of South Africa provides the full text of laws from 1993 and bills from 1998.  The Parliament site also provides links to the provincial parliaments, some of which have legislation online.

·       Polity: Policy and Law News Online is a privately run site which provides acts from 1993, bills from 1993, other materials such as policy documents, reports, notices and regulations, and speeches.

·       The official web site of the South African government also provides links to laws, bills, regulations, parliamentary documents, and reports.  It also provides links to provincial documents such as bills, acts, reports, policies, and publications.


·       South African Constitutional Court (1995-date)

·       Supreme Court of Appeal (1999-date)

·       Labour Appeals Court (1998-2001)

·       Land Claims Court (1996-date)

·       Cape High Court (2003-date)

·       Eastern Cape Division of the High Court (2004-date)

·       Natal Provincial Division of the High Court (2003-date)

·       Orange Free State Provincial Division of the High Court (recent decisions)

·       Competition Tribunal (2000-date)

·       The South African Legal Information Institute (SAFLI) provides another searchable interface for the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court of Appeal, the Land Claims Court, and the High Court of the Eastern Cape Division of the High Court (2001-date).

Research guide

·       Amanda Barratt & Pamela Snyman, “Researching South African Law”


Subscription databases

·       Juta provides the Tanzania Law Reports (1983-1997).

·       Law Africa Law Reports from LawAfrica includes judgments from Tanzania’s courts.

Law and Legislation

·       The Parliament web site provides laws from 1962 to the present which can be searched by keyword, date or act number.  It also includes abstracts of bills before the current Parliament and their status.   Hansards (parliamentary debates) for the current Parliament are available in Kiswahili.

·       The Tanzania Revenue Authority provides links to the Income Tax Act and Value Added Tax Act.


Law and Legislation

·       Togoforum provides links to the Code penál Togolais, Code de procédure pénale, and Code de procédure civile. (Click on the societété tab.)


Law and Legislation

·       Juriste Tunisie is a large French language database arranged by subject which  provides codes, laws and decrees related both to public and private law. 

·       GLIN provides over one hundred law and decrees from 1995-2005 most of which are published in Arabic with English summaries.

·       The full text of laws and regulations relating to financial markets is available on the Bourse de Tunis web site

Research Guide

·       Dahmène Touchent, “A Guide to the Tunisian Legal System”


Subscription database

·       Africa Law Reports from LawAfrica include judgments from Uganda’s courts.

Law and Legislation

·       The Uganda Revenue Authority provides access to various tax laws and regulations.


·       The Courts of Judicature provide judgments from the Supreme Court for 2005 and 2006.


Subscription database

·       Juta provides the Zambia Law Reports (1963-1997).


·       Zambia Legal Information Institute from the University of Zambia Law School  provides selected acts; decisions from the Supreme Court, High Court, Industrial Relations Court, and Lands Courts; and rulings from the Revenue Tribunal.

Law and Legislation

·       Zambia Parliament provides the 26 volume Laws of Zambia, a 1996 compilation of all laws passed since independence.  It also includes debates and proceedings of the current session of Parliament.

·       The Annual Review of Population Law includes various laws relating to population and family issues.


Subscription database

·       Juta provides a subscription service to the

Statutes of Zimbabwe (revised edition 1996) and case law.

IV. Web Sites of Regional Organizations

·       African Union

·       African Development Bank Board

·       Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA)

·       Communauté Economique et Monétaire de l’Afrique Centrale (CEMAC)

·       Community of Sahel-Saharan States

·       East African Community

·       Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS)

·       Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)

·       Intergovernmental Authority on Development

·       OHADA (Organisation pour l’Harmonisation en Afrique du Droit des Affairs) Another site,, provides an English language interface and some material in English.

·       Southern African Development Community

·       Union Èconomique et Monètaire Ouest Africaine (UEMOA)

·       Union du Maghreb Arabe


[1] Thomas H. Reynolds & Arturo A. Flores, Foreign Law Current Sources of Codes and Basic Legislation in Jurisdictions of the World (Buffalo, N.Y.: Wm. S. Hein & Co., 1989-)