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The African continent has seen astounding economic growth since the 1990s. Despite an economic downturn globally, the Sub-Saharan African economy bounded ahead at a 5% growth rate, recently slowing to a rate of 4.25%.

However, most of this growth is unsustainable and tenuous. Africa is far from a genuine economically developed region, and there is no room for complacency regarding the struggle for establishing a true foundation for sustainable economic development, particularly the rule of law. An analyst points out:

The Rule of Law, by providing the framework for protecting private property and individual freedom, creates the stability and predictability in economic affairs necessary to promote entrepreneurship, saving and investment, and capital formation. It is nonsensical to expect . . . economic development in Africa without addressing the institutional factors, such as the lack of Rule of Law, which are responsible for Africa’s failure to develop in the first place.

In many African countries, rule of law has not marched in tandem with economic growth. According to the World Justice Project’s rule of law index, most Sub-Saharan countries are positioned near the bottom of the global rankings. It is observed that “[t]he persistence of Africa’s problems despite democratization, privatization, and . . . reforms is puzzling except when viewed as the logical outcome of a lack of checks and balances.”

This article argues that Africa’s economic growth needs to be premised on the intrinsic and inseparable relationship and synergy between rule of law and sustainable economic growth, a proposition that African law and judicial institutions are not properly recognizing. To this end, Part II of this article presents the arguments for and against the rule of law as well as the underlying theoretical justifications thereof. Part III of this article examines the forces behind the surging African economic growth. Part IV presents the sufficiency, or lack thereof, of laws and jurisprudence from African regional judicial institutions regarding the connection between the rule of law and economic development. Part V presents laws and jurisprudence from select African countries regarding the interface between rule of law and development in those countries. Part VI presents recommendations (as well as conclusions) to strengthen the rule of law and create the necessary, even if insufficient, conditions for continued economic growth. [excerpt]


42 North Carolina Journal of International Law and Commercial Regulation (forthcoming) (2016)

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