An Introduction to African Legal Resources

An Introduction to African Legal Resources

Written by Silke Sahl
Last Updated January 10, 2008


 Table of Contents

Legal Databases
Research Guides

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.

Law Library
African books are located in the Cellar of the law library (see Cellar map). 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.

Columbia University Libraries
Find books at other Columbia libraries by using CLIO, the Columbia Universities Online Catalog.

Beyond Columbia
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 only cover some journals. For more extensive research, consider the following indexes. 

Legal resource indexes, such as Wilson's (via the Law Library's Electronic Resources, Indexes and Databases, Periodical and Treatise Indexes Page) or LRI via Westlaw and Lexis


Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals via the Law Library's Electronic Resources, Indexes and Databases, Periodical and Treatise Indexes Page.  

African Studies Journal Indexes

The following indexes focus on African periodicals, but are not limited to law.

Africa Wide via Columbia University 's Library Web.


Quarterly Index of African Periodical Literature free from the Library of Congress. 


Bibliography of Africana Periodical Literature free from AfricaBib. 

Other Relevant Journal Indexes

Public Affairs Information Services (PAIS) via the Columbia University 's Library Web.

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 following systems: 

The Law Library's Electronic Resources, Electronic Journals Page;


The Columbia University Libraries E-Journals Page;




Lexis; and


Free online systems. The Library of Congress provides a useful list of free Law Reviews Online

Some examples of online African journals are:

Journal of African Law via the Law Library's Electronic Resources, Electronic Journals Page

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 in HeinOnline via the Law Library's Electronic Resources, Electronic Journals Page. Note that 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 and Africa News 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 our Electronic Resources Page.

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. 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.

Librarian assistance required.
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.
Librarian assistance required.

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.

Law in Ghana
Law School campus, or Law School affiliates only.
     access from offsite
From DataCenta Ltd., this is a database of Ghana's legal material, including Ghana Law Reports, the Consolidated Statutes of Ghana and more.   

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 our Electronic Resources Page.

Foreign Law Guide: Current Sources of Codes and Basic Legislation in Jurisdictions of the World
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). Available from the law school campus only. Click on "Subscriber Login (IP Authentication.)"


Constitutions of the Countries of the World

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

Southern Africa Legal Information Institute

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 onilne already. It also includes constitutions, statutes and legal news.



Provides links to legal databases for Francophone countries, including Africa. Links are to both free and fee-based databases.


NTIPO Nouveau Portail
Designed to be a portal to African law online, it has begun with a few countries: the Congo, Djibouti, Mauritania and Niger. 


Investir en Zone Franc
Includes some laws from francophone Africa.


International Documentation Network on the Great African Lakes Region
Includes some laws from the Great Lakes region. 

Free Global Law Databases and Websites

QuickLawAmerica (from Lexis/Nexis)

This Canadian Legal Database provides access to some African law as well. Currently it includes law of , and . Academic users can apply for a free password to this database. Instructions are available here. Unfortunately, most of the African databases are no longer being updated. They can still be used for historical research.


World Legal Information Institute.

Provides links to law online. See their Africa Page.


Guide to Law Online from the Library of Congress.

Links to international resources and resources by country. For researchers without access to commercial databases, it also provides a useful list of free Law Reviews Online.


Human and Constitutional Rights Web Site.

Links to national web links and hot topics.  

Law by Subject

Finding Foreign Law Resources on the Internet

A Columbia Law School Library guide to mega web sites that provide access to foreign law by subject. 




Guides to African legal research can be very helpful. Also, general guides to African studies can help the legal researcher, particularly in related fields such as human rights, business and women's studies.

Sources of Online Legal Information for African Countries

A Selective List of Guides to Foreign Legal Research

Basic Guide to Research on Africa at Columbia University Libraries

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.

Finding Books and Articles on International and Foreign Law

Research Guide—The United Nations

Guide to Treaty Research

Human Rights Research Guide

Finding Foreign Law Resources on the Internet




Please send comments regarding this guide to Silke Sahl, International, Foreign and Comparative Law Librarian, Columbia University, Diamond Law Library at