In the vibrant tapestry of African legal and political developments in 2023, the African Legal Studies Blog has captured critical developments, weaving together the diverse threads of historical and contemporary legal landscapes. As 2023 ends, this reflective piece aims to shed light on the multifaceted progress witnessed in the African legal field in 2023 and the contribution made by the Chair of African Legal Studies. Looking back on the notable strides of the year, we find ourselves hopeful for a progressive year in 2024.
Overarching Progress and Developments in Africa in 2023
Initially, the continent experienced a range of progressive developments in politics and law, with Somalia’s accession to the East African Community (EAC) standing out as a first significant milestone. On November 24, 2023, the EAC officially endorsed Somalia’s accession, solidifying its position as the eighth member of this economic alliance, boasting a population of approximately 300 million. This strategic move not only fosters a conflict-free future but positions the EAC as one of the most substantial regional alliances in Africa and globally, unlocking economic potential for the well-being of its residents.
Focusing on the regional level, the African Commission’s resolution on Business and Human Rights emerged as another key bright spot. It underscores Africa’s commitment to harmonizing economic activities with fundamental human rights, representing a significant stride towards a more equitable legal framework.
Building on this commitment to human rights, Angola, Namibia, and Mauritius collectively decriminalized same-sex relationships in a historic move. These commitments showcased a shared push for inclusivity and human rights within the region. They gain added significance when contrasted with countries like Uganda that have abused the law, adopting an Anti-Homosexuality Bill.
Moreover, environmental progress could also be observed beyond societal advancements with establishing carbon offset markets in Africa. Kenya, Tanzania, Liberia, and Zimbabwe emerged as beneficiaries, exemplifying Africa’s development in sustainable practices. This aligns seamlessly with global environmental goals and positions the continent at the forefront of climate change mitigation efforts. In this context, African countries were willing to strengthen their role at the global level at the first African Climate Summit in Kenya. This is a further step towards collective climate action, from climate mitigation to climate finance.
Beyond this, contributing to the global environmental dialogue, the passage of the South African Climate Act signals the nation’s dedication to environmental responsibility. This legislative milestone contributes significantly to global efforts to address climate change and promotes a sustainable future.
In another noteworthy development on the international stage, Professor Dire Tladi’s historic appointment as the first South African judge at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) added a layer of diversity and African representation, seamlessly integrating the continent into the global legal discourse.
The Academic Contribution of the Chair of African Legal Studies in 2023
Next to these regional developments, the Chair of African Legal Studies fostered further progress in 2023 and achieved several milestones, underscoring its contribution to African legal studies. This internal growth has been a connecting thread, fostering a vibrant academic environment of research, teaching, international cooperation and global recognition.
First, there is notable progress in the number of students from diverse study areas who are interested in and register for modules that the Chair teaches and, in some cases, are afforded the exclusive opportunity to contribute abridged versions of quality seminar papers to our ALS blog. This testament to the Chair’s commitment to nurturing students’ research skills is a great highlight of 2023.
This research and teaching are further enhanced within international cooperation year after year. For instance, celebrating 15 years of the Tanzanian-German Centre for Eastern African Legal Studies (TGCL) connects to the enduring commitment of ALS to regional integration research. It symbolizes a continuous thread woven into the fabric of African legal studies.
Also, the web of academic cooperation, particularly with institutions like SIMAD University in Mogadishu in Somalia, has strengthened ties and facilitated a global exchange of ideas. This interconnectedness enriches the academic experience for students, fostering a sense of shared knowledge and understanding. Following a visit of a Somali delegation of SIMAD University in Bayreuth invited by the University of Bayreuth and the Africa Multiple Cluster of Excellence, collaboration with SIMAD University was further solidified. This fostered a robust partnership between the University of Bayreuth and stakeholders in Somalia. This connection becomes a bridge, seamlessly facilitating joint expansions in teaching and research. The Chair’s instrumental role in developing a Law in Africa Programme at the University of Bayreuth for SIMAD law students further cements the bridge between institutions, creating a seamless path for academic growth and exchange.
The cooperation and coordination were also enhanced by hosting a workshop on Intractable Human Rights Problems alongside the Centre of Human Rights in Pretoria, South Africa. This collaborative event convened scholars specializing in human rights from both Africa and Europe. The workshop was a pivotal component of an ongoing project that scrutinizes the factors contributing to the enduring nature of certain human rights violations despite the presence of comprehensive legal frameworks. The overarching goal of the project is to unearth viable solutions that can instigate meaningful change in addressing these persistent challenges.
Besides, Prof Thoko Kaime’s publication in the Heidelberg Journal of International Law connects academic scholarship and global discourse. This publication advances legal scholarship and contributes knowledge beyond traditional academic boundaries.
Global recognition also becomes a connecting link as Prof Thoko Kaime accompanied the German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, on a state visit to Nigeria and Ghana. This recognition showcases the pivotal role played by German higher education institutions, particularly Universität Bayreuth and the Chair of African Legal Studies, in connecting diverse regions for a shared future.
As the ALS Blog concludes its journey through the legal landscapes 2023, the narrative is one of interconnected progress, achievement, and growth. With an unwavering commitment to open discourse, academic excellence, and the pursuit of justice, ALS is poised to continue seamlessly navigating the ever-evolving legal frontiers of Africa in the years to come. The interconnected threads of the past year form the foundation for new opportunities and challenges. Finally, the ALS Blog stands ready to contribute to the vibrant dialogue shaping the future of African legal studies as we continue to capture Africa’s recent legal and political developments every week.