Quotes From African Legal Innovators On How They Are Disrupting The Sector

Updated on 18 October 2017

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Quotes From African Legal Innovators On How They Are Disrupting The Sector


“We’re bridging this gap between beautiful legislation,” says Samantha Ngcolomba, founder of Lady Liberty, on the divide between what the law is meant to achieve and the reality of justice for many.

“[There are] communities [that] can’t even afford bread and butter, let alone taxi fare or airtime to access an app or phone a lawyer,” she says.

Lady Liberty is a mobile legal office providing access to legal services to underprivileged and marginalised women in remote areas.

Ngcolomba is one of seven semi-finalists in the second Hague Institute for Innovation of Law (HiiL) Justice Innovation Boostcamp invited last week to pitch their legal innovations to a panel of judges. They were competing for funding of R75 000, and a chance to advance to the Hiil Justice Entrepreneurship School in The Hague, Netherlands.

The HiiL Innovating Justice Accelerator (HJA) is an international business acceleration programme designed to help startups in the field of legal and justice innovation. Through the Justice Accelerator, HiiL seeks out and supports companies and individuals who are turning the tools of technology onto the challenges of access to justice around the world.

Tawanda Chikosi, founder of Road Rules, was announced the winner of the Boostcamp. Special mention was given to Comic Contracts founder, Robert de Rooy and MoLLy founder, Thando Gumede, for their innovative business models and their excellent pitches.

Here are quotes from the 7 semi-finalists on how they are hoping to bring innovation to the delivery of African legal services. 

MAKING LAW ACCESSIBLE – “I think it’s about convincing or persuading our people who have resources to make contracts easy to understand for vulnerable people, rather than expecting vulnerable people to understand our contracts, and pictures can do that” – Robert de Rooyfounder, of Comic Contracts, a business that creates legally binding visual contracts for vulnerable people.

SHINING THE SPOTLIGHT ON ENVIRONMENTAL RIGHTS – “We want to make sure that communities, through this app, are going to fight [for their environmental rights], so we are hoping we’ll move mountains because of the vested interest that’s in [the mining] sector” – Darlington Muyambwamedia and communications officer of Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association, which launched the Environmental Justice Reporting App, a monitor and report mobile app for environmental rights in Zimbabwe

PROTECTING THE VULNERABLE – “We’re diverse, we travel to communities, take law to the people and then bring it back and connect them to the lawyers that they need. So we’re basically in the business of bridging gaps. We also add on technology to increase our reach” – Samantha Ngcolombafounder of Lady Liberty, a mobile law office.

INCREASING LEGAL KNOWLEDGE ACCESS – “What this technology does is to make sure our constitutional values become our daily lived values”  Thando Gumede, founder of MoLLy, a mobile artificial intelligence, which organises existing legal knowledge onto devices and serves as a legal library. 

EMPOWERING THE YOUTH – “It’s important because there is a culture that is developing in Zimbabwe [among young people]. If young people are not protected or encouraged to report or be active participants against corruption, corruption will rise to alarming levels and that’s affecting every sphere of social, political and economic development” – Nqobani L. Tshabanguofficial of Transparency International: Zimbabwe, which launched Mobile Corruption Reporting App, a mobile application which will provide citizens, especially the youth, with a platform to report cases of corruption anonymously.

FINDING NEW WAYS TO SOLVE OLD PROBLEMS – “The innovation is resolving disputes. People are used to doing it in a conventional way, but we’re turning the whole thing onto its head, changing the whole thing with user technology” – Willie Pienaar, group CE of Nuva Law SMEa legal tech startup that resolves claims and disputes by processing legal information more efficiently.

FIGHTING POLICE CORRUPTION – “[There is a problem of police intimidation], so this is a real problem that people face everyday, so a real solution that helps them protect themselves, defend themselves, empowers them and inspires people to think ‘if I have access to info and can defend myself in this area, what more in other parts of my life, if I had more access to info, could I [improve]?'” – Tawanda Chikosi, founder and CEO of Road Rules, a mobile app to help fight traffic police corruption in Zimbabwe.

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