Leveling the Playing Field: A New Atlas Transforms Access to Legal Data in Africa

A comprehensive legal framework is crucial for the proper governance of Africa’s mining sector. However, access to and knowledge of the evolving legislation of many African countries has not kept pace.

A number of African countries have worked to adopt or revise their mining codes, seeking comparative information and guidance on benchmark practices in the process, the void has become obvious: there is an absence of comparative data on mining laws and suitable templates for the African mining industry. These laws are already public documents, yet their accessibility is stalled largely due to a lack of institutional capacity as well as a shortage of ways to deliver that information and data.

In 2014 the World Bank Group, in partnership with the African Legal Support Facility and the African Union Commission, launched AMLA. The vision for AMLA is to catalyze discussion around the sustainable development of Africa’s mining sector through three avenues:

  • The AMLA Platform, a free online one-stop resource for Africa’s mining legal framework, including mining codes, regulations and related legislation;
  • The AMLA Training Program, focused on strengthening the capacity of Africa’s next generation of lawyers; and
  • The Guiding Template, an annotated document designed to assist countries in the preparation or revision of their mining laws.

To date, the AMLA project has trained 70 young African law students, 36 men and 34 women, from 18 countries. AMLA is available in English, French and Portuguese, and contains all 53 existing African mining codes in searchable format, as well as a comparison feature that allows users to compare the legislative provisions of 37 countries (and counting) across 98 commonly addressed topics in a mining law.

AMLA Guiding Template, a Tool for Decision Makers

Earlier this year a new knowledge product was launched, the AMLA Guiding Template, a free online reference tool that provides guidance on drafting or assessing a mining law based on Africa’s current realities. It covers over 200 topics, providing (i) a detailed description of the subject matter and (ii) a menu of legislative sample provisions with accompanying annotations to explain the context, issues and useful features of the presented language.

Response to AMLA and the Guiding Template has been overwhelmingly positive from all corners. A launch event was held at Mining Indaba, the world’s largest conference on mining investment in Africa. Senior government officials and Mining ministers from several African countries attended the event and hailed AMLA as a much needed initiative.

I think this is the tool the African Continent has needed for quite some time,” said H.E. Lebohang Thotanyana, Lesotho’s Minister of Mines, who is currently leading the review process to revise Lesotho’s mining law.

The Minister stated that the process his team has just embarked upon will now be carried out in a more efficient and transparent manner thanks to the AMLA Platform and Guiding Template.

H.E. Fatima Haram Acyl, Commissioner for Trade and Industry with the African Union Commission said “Africa needs tools that respond to and are aligned with the principles of the Africa Mining Vision and aspirations of the Agenda 2063. The African Mining Legislation Atlas is […] is the only one of such tools […] that responds to the needs of having comprehensive mineral resources laws and regulatory frameworks.

Others attending the launch event and speaking included Christopher Stevens, Partner at Werkmans LLC and head of LexAfrica, and Nicola Woodroffe, Legal Analyst with the Natural Resources Governance Institute (NRGI). Both expressed the many benefits AMLA offers law firms that represent both private and public sector clients.

A Future of African Ownership

During AMLA’s planning stages it was determined that ultimately it would be important and appropriate for an Africa-based entity to take over ownership of the project to ensure there was strong commitment to the co-generation of knowledge continues to occur grounded in the realities of Africa’s mining sector.

It is in this spirit that the World Bank began transferring the maintenance and regular updating of the AMLA platform and coordination of the Training Program to a secretariat at the African Legal Support Facility, which is hosted by the African Development Bank.

Source: World Bank

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