Modernization of Zambian courts enters second phase

The Investment Climate Facility for Africa (ICF) today announced the successful launch of the second phase of modernisation of the Zambian Judiciary system. The project, delivered in partnership with the Zambian Government, is founded on the principle that a strong and effective judicial system enhances investor confidence, thereby helping a country to deliver economic growth.

This second stage of the jointly-funded project will build on a series of reforms to the Judiciary, which began in November 2008  and focused on the Supreme, High and Magistrate Courts in Lusaka. Over the next 18 months, the Judiciary will extend reforms to the Copperbelt districts of Ndola and Kitwe, as well as continuing to strengthen the courts in the Capital. The programme is backed by the Bankers Association, the Zambian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Zambian Law Society.

The Zambian Judiciary has previously encountered problems including inefficient case management and a lack of trained court staff, which have led to delays in processing cases and dented confidence in the judicial system. The USD4.9 million investment will empower the Judiciary by providing court infrastructure, computerisation and an increase in the number of judges.

Speaking at the launch ceremony, Honourable Ernest L Sakala, Chief Justice of Zambia said: “These important reforms will increase the independence and efficiency of our Judiciary, improving access to justice for all of our citizens. A transparent Judiciary will also promote business confidence and  improve the investment climate for prospective and current investors in Zambia.”

Omari Issa, Chief Executive Officer of ICF, added: “We are extremely pleased to be working in partnership with the Zambian Government to modernise the Judiciary. We believe an effective commercial justice system in a country enhances its investment climate. Improving contract enforcement will lead to an  increase in investor confidence, as well as make it easier and less costly for Zambia’s small and medium sized enterprises to compete and thrive.”

Programme of Reform

The programme will see the Zambian Judiciary modernise 10 courtrooms and 13 registries in Lusaka, Ndola and Kitwe, as well as establishing a commercial division in the Copperbelt region. Steps will also be introduced to formalise procedures, limit the length of time it takes to resolve commercial and labour-related cases and bring in mandatory mediation.

Additional judges will be appointed and as many as 10 judges will be trained in commercial law to improve the quality of judgements and cut the backlog of cases awaiting hearings. These reforms have already led to more transparent and efficient judicial systems in Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone and Rwanda, assisted through similar ICF projects.

The standard of the court process will be strengthened further through a programme of education, including training on computer literacy and the court case management system for both Judiciary staff and lawyers. Some 20 new court reporters will be trained for the Zambian Judiciary, alongside court reporters from other countries such as Tanzania to enable knowledge to be shared.

The project will build on the first phase of modernisation by extending the digitalisation of the Judiciary by introducing an e-library. This will hold archives of cases and publications to enhance knowledge sharing among the legal community. There will also be a financial management system, assisting the Judiciary in its financial planning, monitoring of revenues and expenses and allowing for e-payment of online services.

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