Globalisation and African law scholars

02 August 2006

What is the impact of globalisation on law education in Africa? Professor Tiyanjana Maluwa asked delegates at the opening of the Society of Law Teachers of Southern Africa (SLTSA) 2006 conference.

Quoting the German philosopher Martin Heidegger, who observed that sometimes it's more important to ask questions than provide answers, Maluwa said his opening address - Legal Education in the Age of Globalisation: What lessons can African universities learn from others? - would probably raise more questions than answers.

What challenges do legal educators face as they try to prepare their students to practice law in the new, borderless world? And what role do African lawyers play in shaping national and international policies that lie at the core of the globalisation process? This was followed by a rhetorical question: What role, if any, have lawyers played in the ongoing discussions, under the auspices of the African Union, on the project on regional integration?

Maluwa said the legacy of colonialism and subsequent externally imposed structural adjustment programmes of the 1980s had left a lasting imprint on the economies of most African states.

The effect was a decline in resources and funding for education and other social services.

African universities could learn from American law schools, which had begun drawing up strategies aimed at addressing the impact of globalisation on legal education in that country, said Maluwa.

One way was to involve international faculty for their international perspective, either by inviting or importing teaching staff from other countries.

This should operate in tandem with the admission of foreign student to law faculties and student exchanges with foreign law schools, expanding the study-abroad programmes.

US schools also sought to broaden the teaching of international law beyond the traditional public international law course commonly taught at African law schools. Maluwa suggested this be expanded to include international commercial law, international banking, human rights, international criminal law, international environmental law, trade law, etc.

Organiser Conrad Rademeyer said the conference played a strong developmental role in the legal fraternity of Southern Africa, providing an opportunity for young or emerging researchers to present papers to some of the country's top legal minds.

"It's also a good forum to exchange ideas and experiences on teaching styles and methods, which will enhance the quality of the teaching output."

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