The International University of East Africa’s Faculty of Law is leading the pack of Ugandan law schools when it comes to bridging the gap between the teaching, the practice of law and technology, promising a future of much needed tech-savvy lawyers and legal innovators.
This comes against the backdrop of a Tech Law (the law of technology) summit held yesterday, Monday, 5th December where technology enthusiasts, observers, researchers and probably skeptics met on virtual platform Google Meet to deliberate on legal issues involved in technology.
About 10 researchers including academicians, lawyers, and law students drawn from across the Africa continent presented peer-reviewed papers on various aspects of technology and the legal frameworks around them with specific focus on the East Africa region at the event moderated by Sports lawyer and Daily Monitor columnist Ivan Ojakol.
One of the highlights of the Tech Law summit was Mr. Godfrey Ayeranga’s presentation on video conferencing and how it affects the rights of prisoners.
The Cavendish University law lecturer questioned the continued use of video conferencing in criminal proceedings despite suppression of the Covid-19 pandemic noting that under video-conferenced proceedings criminal suspects don’t get to enjoy the full extent of the right to a fair hearing, one of (if not the most) the fundamental rights in the dispensation of justice.
For example, owing to connectivity issues that tend to be associated with video link technologies, people accused of crime could respond to things they don’t know or understand because they are not hearing the court proceedings very well, Mr. Ayeranga argued.
“The courts and stakeholders must be cautious when implementing this technology.” He said.
There was also another interesting and insightful paper presentation (among others) delivered by Uche Anyamele, a legal consultant, on the legal considerations of adopting Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs) in East Africa (EAC).
She noted the adoption of these CBDCs is permitted within the regional legal framework under Article 5 of the EAC Treaty and could be instrumental in helping member states develop a single currency ahead of regional integration on top of facilitating digital and instantaneous payments.
Uche, however warned the EAC member states would have to handle the adoption of CBDCs with caution to ensure they are in public interest.
Data safety and privacy of members of the public is paramount, she said.
But the biggest highlight of the conference came at end when the Dean of the law faculty, Mr. Emmanuel Sebijjo Ssemmanda revealed ground breaking innovations and steps the University, which identifies as “the technological university of choice” is making in the area of technology and the law.
Mr Emmanuel Sebijjo Ssemmanda announced the University has set up a Tech Law Centre headed by Intellectual Property lawyer, Paula Musiitwa of ABNO Advocates to preside over the University’s research, training, publications and public discussions in the areas of law and technology.
Ssemmanda said the University is establishing a Tech Law Clinic whose duty will be advising the public on legal issues involved in their technological ventures.
A grant and university funded legal tech project courtesy of the International University of East Africa is also under way, according to Mr. Emmanuel Sebijjo Ssemmanda, and the project will support law students, researchers and legal innovators in their tech related endeavors.
Emmanuel Sebijjo Ssemmanda disclosed fourth year law students at his University will be required to submit a legal tech project instead of the usual dissertation Ugandan law schools typically require as part of the fulfillment of the law degree.
“The nature of the law degree has been that at the end a student writes a legal dissertation. We believe there is enough of that already.” He said.
The International University of East Africa is also introducing a Master of Laws degree specifically in Law Tech and the modules of this course will be taught by “a variety of lecturers across the world,” Mr Ssemmanda said.
On last year’s Tech Law Summit, the University launched the first academic publication on the continent that will cover legal issues in technology. This publication is called; “ African Journal on Legal Issues in Technology.”
According to Mr. Ssemmanda, the publication will come out in January, 2023 in both hard copy (print) and digital format. The Journal will include papers that were presented on the summit.
“We will not charge a shilling for the Journal.” He said, while noting that the publication will be distributed across all law schools, book stores, libraries, among other places.
Prof. Emeka Akaezuwa, the Vice Chancellor of the International University of East Africa thanked the law faculty for being proactive rather than reactive in its approach toward the technology revolution.
Prof. Emeka advised the summit to aim for a continental approach towards technology and its regulation which would result in a continental legal framework under the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement (AfCFTA).
“I am happy you are taking the lead in this area of law and technology. Usually, Africans lag behind whether in the academic spheres, political spheres, or economic spheres.
“ We don’t act on time. So what you are doing today is very timely. You are addressing contemporary issues as they come as opposed to waiting until things have happened and it is late and then you are trying to address them.
“ I thank you very much for your vision and contribution. Without a reasoned approach to technology, Africa will be lost.” Prof. Emeka Akaezuwa said.
The innovations the International University of East Africa is pushing including the Tech Law summit are market-leading as the rest of the law schools in Uganda are yet to demonstrate concrete willingness towards equipping prospective lawyers with technological skills or spurring legal innovations and better yet try to shape academic and public discourse around the technology revolution and its regulation.
( Article updates from paragraph 8-11 to include Uche Anyamele’s presentation, Article updates in paragraph 20 to say the papers presented on the summit will be published in the African Journal on legal issues in technology)