Back in 2005, the then Southern African Judges Commission, now the Southern African Chief Justices Forum (SACJF), identified that judicial training institutions in Africa were falling short of their mandate to equip judges to fulfil their role.

Some of the challenges in establishing national judicial training institutes included:

  • A lack of funding and general support by key governmental role players;
  • The irregular intervals at which appointments are made and the small number of new appointments would mean that a judicial training institute would remain idle for long periods;
  • Tension between the executive and the judiciary and interference by the executive has an impact on the smooth execution of judicial training programmes. Concerns were raised about the independence of judicial training institutions in general; and
  • There was recognition that there is a serious shortage of skilled facilitators and lecturers to carry out training programmes.

It was agreed amongst key players that regional cooperation would be needed in order to ensure the best use of limited resources through sharing of curriculum and training events with the aim of promoting the independence of judicial training.

At its AGM in August 2015, the Southern African Chief Justices’ Forum (SACJF) emphasised the need “…to work toward the establishment of a regional judicial training institution/programmes to create opportunities for the systematic, standardised and sustainable provision of continuing legal education for judicial officers ”. The Conference further identified the need to “progressively move away from ad hoc and unstructured training” and to look at training of judges beyond internal training “… to include making budgetary provisions for such capacity development initiatives including…brief learning periods with appropriate academic and specialised judicial training entities in the region.” The SACJF through its Secretariat expressed a desire to partner with the DGRU and ICJ-Africa to take concrete steps to achieve this goal.  Subsequent informal discussions with judges in the region indicated an overwhelming support for the need of such training.

Establishment of JIFA

In December 2015 a group of eminent jurists and human rights practitioners from Africa met to discuss the viability and need of a regional training facility for judges and it was agreed that the Judicial Institute for Africa (JIFA) should be established as a project of the Democratic Governance and Rights Unit (DGRU), offering university-certified courses for judges in the Law Faculty at University of Cape Town.

Learn more about the DGRU

The establishment of the African Network of Judicial Trainers

In May 2022, representatives from various African judicial training institutes met in Dakar, Senegal, recognising the necessity for a pan-African entity to establish shared norms, exchange best practices, and address common challenges in judicial training. Following this, in January 2023 in Cape Town, South Africa, they formulated a constitution, elected a steering committee, and officially founded the African Network of Judicial Trainers, with JIFA at the University of Cape Town selected as its secretariat.

By 2024, the network, now a registered non-profit, held its inaugural Annual General Meeting (AGM) and conference in Zanzibar, welcoming new members and discussing critical themes such as the significance of the Bangalore Principles and the role of data-driven decision-making in judicial training. The AGM reinforced the network's commitment to fostering a competent judiciary that strengthens democracy and justice across the African continent and stands as a great example of the work being completed by JIFA since its establishment.


Learn more about the African Network of Judicial Trainers