Echoes from the field

The African Legal Support Facility: delivering legal capacity for africa’s sustainable development

Olivier Pognon, Director & CEO, ALSF


The African Legal Support Facility (“ALSF” or the “Facility”) unveiled its Medium-Term Strategy 2023-2027 (“MTS”) along with a new visual identity on 31 January 2023. The launch was timely for many reasons:

  • after 14 years of existence, this new MTS marks the evolution of the ALSF and underscores the maturity of an institution that has earned the trust of African governments;
  • in this new phase of its journey, the ALSF boldly seeks to promulgate relevant and empowered legal capacity in Africa to facilitate sustainable economic development.

Accordingly, the ALSF’s new visual identity reflects the collaboration between the ALSF and its member countries and other partners; and embodies dynamism and the confidence to succeed together.

Origin of the ALSF

The ALSF was established in 2008 to assist African countries to pre-empt, avoid, and successfully defend creditor litigation as well as to successfully negotiate complex commercial transactions and investment agreements.[1] The debt crises of the 1980s and 1990s had exposed the dearth of legal and technical capacity which resulted in poorly negotiated contracts and unsuccessful litigation outcomes for African governments. Thus, the founding of the ALSF was opportune and popular.

The initial request for such a legal and technical facility was made by African finance ministers in 2003[2] for support for Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (“HIPCs”) in Africa to address the problems of creditor litigation. At the time, many African governments were losing millions of dollars to intransigent and unscrupulous creditors who purposely opted out of the HIPC initiative.[3] By 2007, an African Big Table (“Big Table”) was convened by the African Development Bank (“AfDB”) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (“ECA”) to lay the foundation for the establishment of a rapid response outfit to assist African governments involved in sovereign debt litigation and negotiation of complex commercial deals to improve socio-economic benefits. These objectives were also in alignment with the AfDB’s Law for Development Strategy, which required a legal facility to provide or arrange legal services for its regional member countries (“RMCs”) and to develop appropriate legal capacities within governments for economic development and poverty reduction. The AfDB accordingly promoted the establishment of the ALSF as an independent international organisation in 2008.

Achievements in the first phase of the ALSF

The first phase or original duration of the ALSF, i.e., the period from 2008 to 2022 was extended by the ALSF’s Governing Council in 2021, for a further fourteen years (the second phase) on account of the remarkable achievements of the Facility and based on the strong recommendation by the RMCs. 

Since the beginning of its operations in 2010, the Facility has been instrumental in enhancing development outcomes: it notably approved a total of USD 120 million for more than 300 projects across 50 African countries. The ALSF has facilitated the procurement and engagement of legal and technical advisors to support fragile and transitioning states involved in creditor litigation and debt restructuring (e.g., the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea Bissau, Somalia, The Sudan, and The Gambia). Legal and technical services have also been provided for negotiation of numerous contracts and transactions relating to natural resources and extractives, energy, infrastructure Public Private Partnerships (PPPs), sovereign debt, and other complex commercial transactions. Overall, it is estimated that the ALSF’s interventions have contributed to savings and revenues for governments of approximately USD 15 billion; estimated private sector investment of approx. USD 20 billion; more than 8,000 MW of renewable and non-renewable energy; training of more than 12,500 African legal professionals and government officials; and creation of 45 knowledge products.[4]

Some of the major projects or transactions successfully supported by the ALSF include – the Nachtigal hydro-electric power project in Cameroon, the Taiba N’Diaye wind farm project in Senegal, the Corbetti power project in Ethiopia, the Bugesera International Airport project in Rwanda, successful handling of Guinea mining arbitration, the Firestone natural rubber project in Liberia, the Niger mining (concession?) renegotiations, the Gambia oil and gas tender project and negotiations, the coal-bed methane power project in Botswana, the Somalia port project, the western area power generation project in Sierra Leone, the review of mining agreements in Lesotho, the Sahofika hydropower project in Madagascar, and the salt-water floating solar photovoltaic (PV) project in the Seychelles - the first in Africa and among only a few in the world!

The ALSF’s work is instrumental in shaping continental strategies and policies through the application of and contribution to international standards and best practices in various areas. This includes:

  • the ALSF’s advocacy against vulture funds and other similar entities and the capacity building of vulnerable sovereigns which contributes to changes in the international legal regime and diminishing lawsuits;
  • the ALSF’s African Mining Legislation Atlas ( which endorses the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI) and provides guidance for mining sector regulation and transactions;
  • the ALSF Academy, a digital learning platform ( launched pre-COVID-19 pandemic that proved prescient as the platform is a valuable source of disseminating knowledge and training for many legal professionals and government officials across the continent;
  • the ALSF’s knowledge products in the power, infrastructure, and sovereign debt sectors which provide sound analyses and guidance for complex transactions; and
  • utilisation by the ALSF of its expertise to support continental policies and strategies to curb climate change and promote low carbon development. For example, through collaboration with various partners the Facility contributes to the development of an ‘Africa Green Minerals Strategy’, which includes green hydrogen and other renewable energy technologies.

Accelerating progress for greater impact

The new Medium-Term Strategy 2023 – 2027 (the “MTS”) is a bold declaration of the ALSF’s commitment to play a notable role in the sustainable development of the continent. It is the product of extensive stakeholder consultations and draws on the lessons learned in the implementation of previous strategic plans. It also takes into consideration current and anticipated global developments to ensure that the ALSF’s interventions are continuing to deliver purposeful and sustainable outcomes for African countries.

Under this MTS, the ALSF’s operations are anchored by three strategic pillars – 1- Advisory Services, 2 - Capacity Building, Knowledge Management, and Institutional Support, and 3 - Managing for Results. While the first two pillars signify the consolidation of the various interventions of the ALSF and reflect the maturity of the institution, the third pillar is critical to ensure the stability required by the Facility as it seeks to accelerate the delivery of impactful results. The continuous assessment and improvement mandated by this pillar will consequently translate into better (and more measurable) outcomes for the ALSF and its beneficiaries. Especially in relation to pillar 1, the Facility is best placed to utilise lessons learned from assisting governments with various complex transactions to support training and essentially, empowerment of African legal professionals through knowledge transfer tools, and to strengthen institutions.

The ALSF’s focus areas are streamlined according to the continent’s key economic sectors and activities - energy, natural resources and extractives, infrastructure and public-private partnerships (PPPs), and sovereign finance. However, critical development issues such as Environment, Social and Governance (ESG), climate sustainability, gender, youth, illicit financial flows (IFFs), and digitalisation will determine the sustainable development impacts of the ALSF’s interventions. Accordingly, the ALSF will ensure that from due diligence stage until closing, these cross-cutting issues (CCIs) are identified and integrated in the implementation of projects. This way, the ALSF’s interventions will contribute meaningfully to the regional member countries’ achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, as well as to the African Union Agenda 2063 Aspirations.

With requests for the ALSF’s services rapidly increasing by about 35% per annum, the MTS anticipates expansion in the ALSF’s operations to adequately respond to the needs of its member countries, especially transitioning states that require bespoke support. Besides ensuring equity, supporting these requests engenders positive externalities and promotes regional progress.

A modern and dynamic identity to drive progress

To coincide with the beginning of its second phase, the ALSF is also refreshing its visual identity to reflect its evolution and the connection to its members. Our new logo projects the continent it seeks to support in a contemporary way while emphasising collaboration and partnership with member countries and partners to achieve common objectives. The new colours of the ALSF aim to symbolize trust, rigor and dynamism which characterizes the ALSF’s team and spirit.  

Going forward and further, together

As prominently illustrated by the new logo, a central theme of the MTS is partnerships. The legal assistance provided by the ALSF is enhanced when successfully combined with other relevant academic, technical and financial support. Over the years, working alongside various institutions and with the vital support of the AfDB, the ALSF has established itself as a credible institution and a house of legal and technical experts. In the period ahead, we will resolutely pursue the initial goal of the ALSF becoming THE enabler of sustainable legal capacity on the continent. The lessons learned from previous and existing collaborations will inform our future strategic partnerships as we seek to expand the visibility, utility and impact of our services.

[1] See: Treaty establishing the African Legal Support Facility (22 December 2008).

[2] See: ECA Press Release No. 08/2003 - African Ministers Pronounce on Aid, Trade, Debt, IMF, HIV/AIDS (2 June 2003).


[4] ALSF Statistics.