The ANCL is coordinated by a secretariat based at the University of Cape Town (the Democratic Governance & Rights Unit), whose responsibility it is to drive the network, organize the annual meeting, the various governance structures and the working committees, as well as the membership database and website.
The ANCL was established in 1997 under the auspices of the IACL, with Prof Babacar Kanté, Vice President of the Senegalese Constitutional Court and a member of the IACL Executive Committee, as convenor. Between 1997 and 2000, the ANCL organised two symposia and published two issues of its bulletin. Owing to funding and communications problems, however, it thereafter ceased to operate.
In April 2006 a group of constitutional scholars and jurists from across Africa met in Cape Town to discuss the revival of the ANCL. It was considered imperative that African constitutional scholars and African constitutional perspectives be adequately represented at this event. At the Cape Town meeting, it was agreed that an essential first step in reviving the ANCL would be to hold a conference for African constitutionalists, well in advance of the World Congress. This conference was held in Nairobi in April 2007. It was successful by every measure and began the process of building links among African constitutionalists from Anglophone, Lusophone and Francophone Africa, and it provided an opportunity to exchange ideas on issues of current importance for rights and constitutionalism in Africa. At the conference, the new organisational aspects of the re-launched ANCL were put in place: new office bearers were elected, the University of Cape Town was identified as the home of the secretariat, and a programme for future action was determined.
The overarching goal of the ANCL is to contribute to the development of democracy and constitutionalism, the protection of rights and the rule of law in Africa by providing a forum in which those involved in making, implementing and monitoring the implementation of constitutions and the promotion of rights can communicate with one another effectively. In so doing, the ANCL will foster a deeper understanding of constitutional government and the challenges which it presents in Africa, and facilitate the development of constructive responses to such challenges. The ANCL aims to create a strong community of research institutes, bar associations, law societies, regional and sub-regional associations, NGOs and individuals concerned with defending democracy and human rights. Its specific aims are to:
act as a forum for the exchange of information and ideas between members of the ANCL and between the ANCL and other partner organisations with a view to improving the understanding of African constitutional systems; promote human and peoples’ rights on the continent including civil, political, economic, social, cultural rights; examine and compare the problems and phenomena common to African and foreign constitutional systems; anticipate African constitutional problems and to propose solutions capable of resolving them; provide a ‘task force’ of constitutional experts who could be called on to give advice on African constitutional problems; and, develop a constitutional and democratic conscience on the continent The President is Prof Christina Murray, University of Cape Town (RSA). The Secretary General is Richard Calland, University of Cape Town (RSA) The General Assembly is constituted by all the members of the ANCL. There are members from 35 countries in Africa.