Call for Papers: African Customary Law Conference

The Center for African Legal Studies at UPSA Law School Accra, in collaboration with the Leitner Center for International Law and Justice at Fordham Law School, New York, presents:


Theme: Customary Law in a Changing Africa

Date: January 28-29, 2021


The sponsoring organizations of the African Customary Law Conference invite submissions and participant nominations for a collaborative exchange and discussion at a two-day virtual conference to take place on January 28-29, 2021. The conference working language will be English and will include paper presentations on topics detailed below. It will also include working group discussions with a broad range of stakeholders, including, for example, traditional leaders, members of the judiciary, representatives of non-governmental organizations, law reform agencies, policy makers, and other interested persons on topics related to customary law.

Customary law, the traditional law indigenous to a region, continues to regulate many areas of people’s lives in Africa. Some African constitutions now enshrine the right to culture and oblige courts to apply customary law where applicable. Elsewhere, constitutional, statutory and common law have superseded most or all customary law. Even in such situations, customary law may nevertheless govern in certain areas, such as requirements for marriage, the rights and duties of husbands and wives, the obligations toward and custody of children, the ownership of property acquired during marriage, distribution of profits in commercial land dealings, and many other aspects of family and socio-economic life. Moreover, even where conflicting constitutional or statutory law exists, lack of access to legal resources may mean that, as a practical matter, customary law still governs even if largely ignored in key law reform initiatives in countries on the continent.

The persistence of the rule-subsidiarity status of customary law in many countries in Africa creates a situation of legal dislocation for millions. As detailed further below, the UPSA African Customary Law conference will explore the changing dynamics of customary law on the continent as a twenty first century reality.



Papers will be selected for presentation at the conference by a Steering Committee comprised of members from the sponsoring organization. All proposals should include a project/paper description and the applicant’s curriculum vitae. Proposals should be in English with project descriptions not to exceed 1000 words. As publication of selected papers is contemplated, submissions should describe work that has not been previously published elsewhere. The publication is contingent on authors producing a final paper of publishable quality.

Possible topics for consideration:

– African customary law in the 21st Century?

– Customary law, pandemics and the covid-19 era

– Customary law, racism and racial identity

– Customary law and the rule of law

– “Procedural” aspects of customary law

– Avenues for enforcement of customary law

– Substantive aspects of customary law

– Gender and customary law

– Customary law and international law

– Digitization of customary law

– Institutions of customary law and their contribution to its development


Submission Deadline is November 15, 2020. Proposals should be submitted by email to [email protected]

Participants will be notified in November 2020 of the acceptance or otherwise of their paper.


The sponsoring organizations invite nominations of traditional leaders, members of the judiciary or other persons or organizations who may be interested in attending the conference to participate in the working group discussions and discussion of papers. Persons may self-nominate or nominate others with expertise in matters related to customary law.

Nominations should include:

  • The title and address of the person or organization nominated.
  • An explanation of the reasons for the nomination (500-word limit) including:

o What is the person or organization’s role concerning customary law? What is the basis for the person or organization’s expertise in this area?

o Why, specifically, do you believe this person or organization should be included in the conference?

o What areas or issues related to customary law would the person or organization be most interested in discussing?

  • Submitter information: Your name, mailing address, phone number, and email address.


Nomination deadline is November 15, 2020. Nominations should be submitted by email to [email protected].

Nominated persons and organizations who are accepted to participate in the conference will be notified in November 2020.

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