• Offered by ANU Law School
  • ANU College ANU College of Law
  • Classification Advanced
  • Course subject Laws
  • Areas of interest Development Studies, International Relations, Law
  • Academic career PGRD
  • Mode of delivery In Person

Good governance, human rights, the rule of law, and access to justice remain high on the rhetorical agenda of governments, donors, investors and activists in Africa. ‘Stronger’ systems of law and governance are seen as a remedy for this region’s perceived dysfunctions, from under-development to insecurity to investment-deterring political risk.

This course explores the complex ways in which law, lawyers and legal institutions are involved in governance, power and change in sub-Saharan Africa. What role did customary laws and authorities play in the colonisation process? How do colonial, liberation-era and post-colonial experiences continue to shape the role of law and government in development? What do the state’s origins and shifting shape mean for the ability to affect change through law? How is formal national law and governance -- for example in relation to land and natural resources -- affected by other forces, from investors and donors, to local and provincial governments, to religious and traditional authorities? Importantly, how do / did societies in a vast, highly diverse continent experience these issues very differently?

The course introduces general features of African legal systems, examining the relationship between law, governance and development in the region. It introduces conceptual tools to help understand how relevant formal law is to societal change, and how law relates to politics and power. It combines analysis of current trends and debates with acknowledging the enduring legacy of historical features of law and governance. This course will appeal to those with practical and professional interests in development, diplomacy, advocacy, and investment in the region. However, it also provides a comparative perspective to similar issues in Asian and Pacific regions, and no prior familiarity with Africa is required.
The course themes are explored through selected country or sub-regional case studies on issues such as tensions between post-genocide local and international transitional justice mechanisms, land reform and management by traditional authorities, and constitution-making and devolution in highly politicised contexts. In this way the course is as much about generic issues of ‘law and society’ in the developing world, as it is about Africa.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

  1. Analyse and explain the formal features of law and governance prevalent in many African countries, as well as demonstrate an insight in the actual working of these formal systems and the legal remedies to which citizens in given African contexts have veritable access;
  2. Demonstrate a critical understanding of the prevailing conceptual frameworks for an understanding of issues such as weak states, legal pluralism and donor influence;
  3. Recognise, distinguish and appraise the conceptual framework within the contexts of a number of selected case studies; and
  4. Examine and investigate ‘the limits of law’ and be able to critically evaluate what law and governance can and cannot do in addressing the main challenges faced by many African countries.

Indicative Assessment

  1. Take-Home Examination (30) [LO 1,2,3,4]
  2. Research Paper (5,000 words) (70) [LO 1,2,3,4]

In response to COVID-19: Please note that Semester 2 Class Summary information (available under the classes tab) is as up to date as possible. Changes to Class Summaries not captured by this publication will be available to enrolled students via Wattle. 

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Classes offered in non-standard sessions will be taught on an intensive base with compulsory contact hours (approximately 26 hours of face to face teaching). The course will also require advanced preparation through assigned readings. In total, it is anticipated that the hours required for completion of this course (class preparation, teaching and completion of assessment) will not exceed 120 hours. Classes offered during semester periods are expected to have 3 contact hours per week.

Click here for the LLM Masters Program timetable.

Inherent Requirements

Not applicable

Requisite and Incompatibility

To enrol in this course you must be studying a: Master of Laws (7300XLLM, MLLM), Master of Laws in Migration (NLLML), Master of Laws in International Law (NLLIL), Master of Laws in Environmental Law (NLLEN), Master of Laws in Law, Governance & Development (NLLGD), Master of Laws in International Security Law (NLLSL), Master of Laws in Government and Regulation (NLLGR), Master of Legal Practice (MLEGP), OR Juris Doctor (7330XJD, 7330HJD or MJD) and have completed or be completing five 1000 level LAWS courses or five 6100 level LAWS courses; OR Graduate Certificate of Law (CLAW) and have completed or be completing LAWS8586 Law and Legal Institutions; OR Master of Military Law (MMILL). Students undertaking any ANU graduate program may apply for this course. Enrolments are accepted on a case-by-case basis. Please contact the ANU College of Law for permission number.

Prescribed Texts

There is no prescribed text for this course.

Preliminary Reading

Students must rely on the approved Class Summary which will be posted to the Programs and Courses site approximately 2 weeks prior to the commencement of the course.

An e-brick will be available on the Wattle course site.

Assumed Knowledge

A basic understanding of law, governance and development (for example through completing LAWS8001 Introduction to Law, Governance and Development) would be advantageous but is not required.


Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

If you are a domestic graduate coursework or international student you will be required to pay tuition fees. Tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are an undergraduate student and have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). You can find your student contribution amount for each course at Fees.  Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee
2020 $4320
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2020 $5760
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

ANU utilises MyTimetable to enable students to view the timetable for their enrolled courses, browse, then self-allocate to small teaching activities / tutorials so they can better plan their time. Find out more on the Timetable webpage.

There are no current offerings for this course.

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