The Dullah Omar Institute at the University of the Western Cape in partnership with the African Centre of Excellence for Access to Justice held a two-day inception meeting concerning Research on Community Based Paralegals in Africa. This took place at the Onomo Hotel, Kigali, Rwanda from 21-22 February 2020.

The meeting was aimed at establishing the nature and context of Community Based Paralegals (CBPs) in Africa through six selected countries, namely, Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda, Tanzania, Mozambique and Zambia. The proposed research seeks to understand the legal recognition of paralegal activities and the consequent regulations as this is crucial to promoting access to justice for marginalised communities in Africa. There is a need to address the longstanding concerns of balancing the legal profession with the paralegal movement.

Over the two-day meeting the participants discussed the proposed research from its inception phase, focusing on the key objectives and methodology, to the projected outcomes of the research and where there is potential for growth. There was consensus on the value of the project and the need for community-led solutions on the African continent. The participants engaged on current challenges within the named countries, the best evolving practices and as such, how to ensure that the research gathered will be accessible and a true reflection of what is happening on the ground. The discussion was largely centred on mapping out the current landscape of paralegal activities in Africa and identifying the gaps in recognition, regulation and development. This directed the conversation toward tackling general concerns of CBPs but also provided specific context regarding the concerns within each country.

Ultimately, the participants successfully gathered the necessary research on the current status of CBPs in Africa and the aim of the research toward addressing the concerns raised. While there is much work to do, the inception meeting highlighted the need for continued conversations on access to justice in Africa. The participants agreed that taking a collaborative approach through regional partnerships is crucial in facilitating this project and paving the way forward for the promotion of access to justice in Africa for all.

To follow the conversation online, follow #ParalegalsAfrica and #AccessToJustice on Twitter, the Dullah Omar Institute’s Facebook page, and here for regular updates.