Corruption 'one of biggest hurdles to development of rule of law in Africa'
Corruption, government inefficiency and a lack of transparency and accountability are the biggest hurdles to the development of the rule of law in Africa.
This is the central finding in a first-of-its-kind survey of legal professionals in 24 African countries, conducted by online legal news platform Africa Legal and provider of legal, regulatory and business information LexisNexis SA.
In the inaugural report, titled “Advancing the Rule of Law in Africa 2021/22", the companies surveyed more than 280 legal professionals — from private practice lawyers and in-house counsel to government employees and members of the judiciary — to understand what the rule of law means in practice and its level of development.
The report’s authors said Africa has long struggled with the problems caused by an underdeveloped rule of law. They said investors are reluctant to finance projects, unsure if contracts will be honoured.
They said access to justice is often lopsided, favouring the wealthy and well-connected.
And corruption is widespread. “According to Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, of the 10 countries perceived to be the most corrupt in the world, six are in Africa.”
The report said 52% of those surveyed ranked corruption as the biggest hurdle that contributes to a weaker rule of law.
“Other hurdles respondents noted were a lack of leadership, a lack of education and literacy, and poverty.
“As one Kenyan private practice lawyer noted, poverty 'hinders the ability of the bulk of the population from accessing justice since they are not able to afford legal representation'.”
Those surveyed also noted that poor or inconsistent enforcement mechanisms can slow the development of the rule of law.
“A private practice lawyer in Uganda said when people see others breaking the law and avoiding arrest or not being charged, that can encourage those people to break the law as well.”
All respondents, including government employees, believed government, followed by the judiciary, were responsible for the advancement of the rule of law.
The survey found that overall, 40% of respondents are optimistic that the rule of law will improve in their countries over the next five years, with the rest believing it will either decline or stay the same.
Kenya is the most optimistic and Nigeria the most pessimistic.
LexisNexis SA CEO Videsha Proothveerajh said there was a lot of work to be done to advance the rule of law across all countries, but based on the findings of the inaugural report, the need for change is there.
“While government must lead from the front, all stakeholders, including the public, lawyers, the judiciary and legal organisations, need to champion this change if our continent is to take its rightful place on the global stage,” she said.
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