AKN4Africa Recommendation

26 July 2021

Recommendations for using Akoma Ntoso with African legal materials.

1. Introduction

The Akoma Ntoso (AKN) Naming Convention for uniquely naming documents and elements within them provides a framework for naming documents in a consistent and replicable way. This is crucial for referring to other pieces of legislation (or any of their provisions) from a given AKN document.

The aim of the AKN4Africa Recommendation is to provide guidance on the implementation of this framework in the African context, taking into account documents from African countries and regional bodies and their drafting traditions. The AKN4UN and AKN4EU projects provide similar guidance for applying AKN naming conventions to UN and EU documents.

This Recommendation is meant for users already familiar with the AKN standard and conventions, as the intention is to add to the existing standard rather than reinventing any of it.

Laws.Africa is not an official body like the UN or the EU, but we also haven’t found an existing convention for using AKN in the African context. We are therefore publishing our interpretation of the AKN standard for documents from African jurisdictions:

  • based on our experience supporting African governments that are building their own AKN collections, and applying AKN to documents across a number of African jurisdictions;
  • as a recommendation to other users of AKN across Africa for how to generate FRBR URIs (and eIds); and
  • to help anyone resolving links to Laws.Africa-generated AKN documents.

2. Resources

The following resources informed the structure of this document and the issues discussed.

3. Generating FRBR URIs

AKN FRBR URIs are constructed as follows, with the grey text indicating that an element is optional:

/akn/2-letter country code-locality code/doctype/subtype/author/year/number

In general, lowercase all letters and don’t use any spaces. The sections below go into detail about each of the FRBR URI elements. Before that, we outline our guiding principles when deciding how to structure FRBR URIs in a given jurisdiction. At the end are example FRBR URIs for regional and country legislation. We have aimed to include an example for each doctype and subtype.

3.1 Guiding principles

3.1.1 Uniqueness, consistency and replicability

FRBR URIs are used to identify specific documents, or ‘works’ in AKN and FRBR nomenclature. Uniqueness is thus critical.

Consistency and replicability are crucial for accurately referencing (and dereferencing) documents.

When determining the various FRBR URI elements, use the most authoritative source to ensure replicability without coordination. For instance, use Parliament’s numbering system to identify Acts.

3.1.2 Respecting local traditions

We recommend striking a balance between consistency and local traditions, because a convention should make sense to the people using it. Where it is possible and meaningful to consistently incorporate a jurisdiction’s local naming convention into the FRBR URI, do so.

For example:

  • The reference numbers of ACHPR Resolutions have the form ‘ACHPR/Res. 343(LVIII) 2016’. In AKN nomenclature this includes the author (achpr), the type (resolution), the number (343) and the year (2016). However, it also includes the session number, 58 (or LVIII). While it isn’t strictly necessary to include the number under the AKN Naming Convention, we include it in the FRBR URIs because it is commonly used when referring to ACHPR Resolutions: /akn/aa-au/statement/resolution/achpr/2016/58-343.
  • ECOWAS documents are referred to as e.g. ‘A/SA.1/12/14’. The subtype (supplementary-act), year (2014) and number (1) are all included, as is the month in which the Supplementary Act was signed. The month isn’t strictly necessary to identify ‘Supplementary Act 1 of 2014’, but because it’s part of the local tradition, we include it in the FRBR URI: /akn/aa-ecowas/act/supplementary-act/2014/12-1.

When including information in FRBR URIs that isn’t strictly necessary, start with more general information and work your way to increasingly specific information (to the right of the FRBR URI) . When we include the session number for ACHPR Resolutions, and the month for ECOWAS documents, they come before the number itself, with a hyphen, because the number is the most specific element.

3.2 Country code

Always use a 2-letter country code, whether the jurisdiction is a literal country or a regional body.

3.2.1 Literal countries

For countries, use the ISO 3166 2-letter code, e.g. ke for Kenya (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ISO_3166-1_alpha-2).

3.2.2 Regional bodies

For regional bodies in Africa, use aa as the country code in combination with a locality code: aa-au, aa-eac, aa-ecowas, and aa-sadc.

The code aa is an indicator that what follows is a regional body in Africa. We chose this code because there is no existing ISO 3166 code for any of the regional bodies in Africa, but aa is available for assignment by users.

3.3 Locality code

Locality codes are used for:

  • sub-national legislation, e.g. Provincial Acts, County Acts, or Municipal By-laws; and
  • regional legislation that uses the aa country code.

The locality code is always preceded by a two-letter country code and a hyphen. Hyphens within a locality code are allowed; any spaces or other punctuation should be replaced with hyphens or removed.

Where possible, use the official locality codes assigned by a jurisdiction.

For example,

  • Kenyan Counties are assigned numbers from 001 to 047. The FRBR URI for a Mombasa County Act would therefore start /akn/ke-001/….
  • In South Africa, municipalities are assigned codes. The FRBR URI for a Municipal By-law in Mbizana would therefore start /akn/za-ec443/….

3.4 Doctype and subtype

For examples of doctypes and subtypes, see the Example FRBR URIs section.

3.4.1 Doctype

  • For legislation – Acts, Regulations, Statutory Instruments, and the like – use act.
    These are documents that have the force of law.
  • For soft law – Resolutions, Guidelines, Decisions, Model laws, Agreements, and the like – use statement.
    These are documents that don’t (or only sometimes) have the force of law, but do still have to do with the law (to varying degrees).
  • For case law, use judgment.
  • For other documents – Policies, Memoranda of Understanding, Yearbooks, Press Releases, and the like – use doc.
    This document, for example, would use the doc doctype.

3.4.2 Subtype

  • If the document is anything other than an act / statement / judgment / doc, use whatever it calls itself as the subtype, e.g. act/si for a Statutory Instrument (‘act’ because it has the force of law).
  • The same subtype should always be used with the same doctype: One should be able to reliably predict, for example, that a set of guidelines will always have statement/guidelines as the doctype/subtype combination. Regional legislation

Use the full subtype for regional legislation (and not an abbreviated form), because regional legislation applies to multiple jurisdictions and it can’t be assumed that everyone across the region will use the same set of conventional abbreviations.

For document types that typically appear in the plural, e.g. Guidelines, use the plural in the AKN subtype (guidelines). If a document type that usually appears in the singular has an instance that appears in the plural, use the singular for that instance. Don’t use both the singular and the plural, or any other variances of a document type, because this lessens the likelihood of documents linking to each other reliably.

If a document type that typically appears in the plural is used in the singular in a given jurisdiction, do use it in the singular in that jurisdiction, but consistently. An example of this is Regulation (regulation) in ECOWAS. Country legislation

Use the local tradition for the subtype, because we can assume that people will be familiar with conventional abbreviations within a country. The local tradition will often have an abbreviated form for the subtype, unlike with regional legislation.

Again, don’t use plurals or other variances of document types, as it makes it more difficult for documents to refer to each other reliably and predictably.

Inevitably, a document type will exist for which an abbreviation has already been chosen. When this happens, choose a longer abbreviation for the ‘new’ document type, and leave the existing one as is. For example, Premier’s Notice (premn) was added after Provincial Notice (pn). Try to map out all subtypes beforehand to avoid such a clash.

3.5 Author

Include the author to differentiate from the ‘default’ author, and where it’s necessary to clearly differentiate between similar documents with different authors.

For national legislation the author of the work level is not usually specified, as the ‘author’ of national legislation is usually always the same body (e.g. the National Assembly in South Africa).

For example, the default author of African Union legislation is the Assembly of the African Union and is not specified. If a document that is applicable to the African Union was authored by a different body, e.g. the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, include the author to differentiate it from the default.

Below is a non-exhaustive list of relevant bodies and their ‘author’ codes.

Abbreviate the author only if a body is usually referred to by that abbreviation.

Body Author code
African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights achpr
African Union Commission auc
African Union Specialized Technical Committee on Transport, Transcontinental and Interregional Infrastructure, Energy and Tourism austc-on-transport-infrastructure-energy-tourism
Committee for the Prevention of Torture in Africa cpta
Department of Rural Economy and Agriculture of the African Union Commission auc-department-of-rural-economy-and-agriculture
Organisation of African Unity oau

3.6 Year

For the year, use the year of the work, in the format yyyy.

In many jurisdictions the Act number and year are formally assigned by Parliament.

The year usually coincides with the year in which it was published, but if an Act was assigned the number / year combination ‘Act 32 of 2019’ but was only published in 2020, use ‘2019’ as the year. This is both to avoid clashes in numbering (in this example there may well also be an ‘Act 32 of 2020’) and to respect the official assignment.

For African Union, EAC, ECOWAS, and SADC documents, use the year of the date of adoption.

3.6 Number

The purpose of the number element in the FRBR URI is to clearly identify a given document (in that place, with that subtype, by that author, in that year). It’s the most specific piece of information about a document that can disambiguate it from its peers (e.g. all other Acts in that year).

We use a number whenever available, e.g. an Act number, notice number, Resolution number, etc.

(This is on the assumption that one would never have, for example, two Acts issued in the same year with the same Act number. Where this does happen due to a clerical error, we would add -b, -c, etc. at the end to the later Act(s), leaving the first Act with that number as is.)

If the number is a Roman numeral, use the Arabic number instead. This goes for the actual number of the document as well as session numbers and the like, if included.

Where there isn’t a number available, for instance the Guidelines on Freedom of Association and Assembly in Africa, use a short phrase, in this case freedom-of-association-and-assembly.


  • the subtype (in this case guidelines);
  • the author, if applicable; and
  • the place (in this case ‘Africa’, already being implied by the aa-au code – we also omit ‘African Union’ for the same reason),

except when to do so would change the meaning. For example:

  • Rules of Procedure of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, 2020: /akn/aa-au/act/rules/achpr/2020/rules-of-procedure
  • Statute of the Africa Sports Council: /akn/aa-au/act/statute/2016/africa-sports-council

When choosing such a phrase it’s important to bear in mind the purpose of the number element. If, for example, several ‘progress’ statements are typically issued by a body within a year, you may wish to number them progress-1, progress-2, etc. for disambiguation. But if each is typically on a different topic, the preference is to number them, for example, progress-environment, progress-public-health, etc.

3.6.1 Acts with Chapter numbers

Don’t use a Chapter (or Cap) number when generating an FRBR URI, because they change over time. Use the Act’s number as assigned in the original legislative process.

You can link the Cap number as a piece of document metadata and update it as necessary to ensure references are dereferenced accurately.

3.6.2 Judgments

Judgment numbers should be derived from an officially assigned Medium Neutral Citation (MNC) if possible. In most cases, the MNC includes a number that is unique either within a year, within a particular court, or both. Use the necessary elements from the MNC to generate a unique FRBR URI.

For example, Kenya Law assigns MNC numbers to Kenyan judgments which include a year and a court code. Judgment 5 of 2019 from the High Court of Kenya would use the FRBR URI /akn/ke/judgment/kehc/2019/5. Here, kehc identifies the document author: the High Court of Kenya.

3.7 Example FRBR URIs

The tables below aim to include all known document types but will certainly fail, if only because inevitably a new document type will be published in the future. The preceding sections are there to guide users in making the call when the tables fail, and explain how the tables were compiled.

3.7.1 Regional legislation Documents with the act doctype

Document type Example Subtype FRBR URI
Act East African Community One Stop Border Posts Act, 2016 /akn/aa-eac/act/2016/one-stop-border-posts
Agreement Agreement for the Establishment of the African Rehabilitation Institute (ARI) agreement /akn/aa-au/act/agreement/oau/1985/establishment-of-the-african-rehabilitation-institute
Agreement Amending Article 3 of the Protocol on Trade /akn/aa-sadc/act/agreement/2016/amending-article-3-of-the-protocol-on-trade
Charter OAU Charter charter /akn/aa-au/act/charter/oau/1963/nn
African Youth Charter /akn/aa-au/act/charter/2006/youth
African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights /akn/aa-au/act/charter/achpr/1981/human-and-peoples-rights
Charter Establishing the Centre for Coordination of Agricultural Research and Development (CCARDESA) /akn/aa-sadc/act/charter/2010/establishing-the-centre-for-coordination-of-agricultural-research-and-development
Constitution Constitutive Act of the African Union /akn/aa-au/act/2000/constitutive-act
Convention General Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the Organization of African Unity convention /akn/aa-au/act/convention/oau/1965/privileges-and-immunities
Directive Directive C/Dir.1/06/13 on the Organization of the Regional Electricity Market directive /akn/aa-ecowas/act/directive/2013/6-1
Pact The African Union Non-Aggression and Common Defence Pact pact /akn/aa-au/act/pact/2005/non-aggression-and-common-defence
SADC Mutual Defence Pact /akn/aa-sadc/act/pact/2003/mutual-defence
Protocol Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Older Persons in Africa protocol /akn/aa-au/act/protocol/2016/achpr-rights-of-older-persons
Protocol on Trade in Services /akn/aa-sadc/act/protocol/2012/trade-in-services
Regulation Regulation Approving The Work Programme of the ECOWAS Commission, for the 2015 Financial Year regulation /akn/aa-ecowas/act/regulation/2014/12-1
Regulations East Africa Community Vehicle Load Control (Vehicle Dimensions and Axle Configurations) Regulations, 2018 regulations /akn/aa-eac/act/regulations/2018/vehicle-load-control-vehicle-dimensions-and-axle-configurations
Rules Rules of Procedure of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, 2020 rules /akn/aa-au/act/rules/achpr/2020/rules-of-procedure
Standard Operating Procedures Standard Operating Procedures on the Special Mechanisms of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights standard-operating-procedures /akn/aa-au/act/standard-operating-procedures/achpr/2020/special-mechanisms
Statute Statute of the Africa Sports Council statute /akn/aa-au/act/statute/2016/africa-sports-council
Supplementary Act Supplementary Act A/SA.1/12/14 on the Improvement of Performance in Higher Education and Scientific Research supplementary-act /akn/aa-ecowas/act/supplementary-act/2014/12-1
Treaty Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community treaty /akn/aa-au/act/treaty/oau/1991/establishing-the-african-economic-community
Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Revised Treaty, 1993 /akn/aa-ecowas/act/treaty/1993/ecowas-revised-treaty Documents with the statement doctype

Document type Example Subtype FRBR URI
Comment General Comment No. 4 on the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights: The Right to Redress for Victims of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Punishment or Treatment (Article 5) comment /akn/aa-au/statement/comment/achpr/2017/4
Decision Decision A/Dec.01/12/14 amending Decision A/Dec 2/7/85 Establishing a Travel Certificate for ECOWAS Member States decision /akn/aa-ecowas/statement/decision/2014/12-1
Declaration Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, 2019 declaration /akn/aa-au/statement/declaration/achpr/2019/principles-on-freedom-of-expression-and-access-to-information
Declaration of the Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States on the Implementation of the ECOWAS Common External Tariff (CET) /akn/aa-ecowas/statement/declaration/2014/implementation-of-common-external-tariff
Guidelines State Reporting Guidelines and Principles* on Articles 21 And 24 of the African Charter relating to Extractive Industries, Human Rights and the Environment
* While the title includes ‘Guidelines and Principles’, the principles inform the guidelines, which are the crux of the document. This will generally be our assumption in a case like this. If in doubt, read the document to see which subtype is more prominent when more than one is given in the title.
guidelines /akn/aa-au/statement/guidelines/achpr/2018/state-reporting-articles-21-and-24
The Guidelines on Combating Sexual Violence and its Consequences in Africa /akn/aa-au/statement/guidelines/achpr/2017/combating-sexual-violence-and-its-consequences
Questions Indicative questions to State Parties in respect of Article 5 of the African Charter questions /akn/aa-au/statement/questions/cpta/2016/article-5
Model laws / legislation Model Law on Access to Information for Africa, 2013 model-law /akn/aa-au/statement/model-law/achpr/2013/access-to-information
Principles Principles on the Decriminalisation of Petty Offences in Africa principles /akn/aa-au/statement/principles/achpr/2017/decriminalisation-petty-offences
Recommendation Recommendation on Periodic Reports recommendation /akn/aa-au/statement/recommendation/achpr/1998/3-3
(third session, recommendation 3)
Resolution Resolution on the Military resolution /akn/aa-au/statement/resolution/achpr/1994/16-10
(sixteenth session, resolution 10) Documents with the judgment doctype

Document type Example Subtype FRBR URI
Judgment Judgment 5 of 2019 from the Kenyan High Court /akn/ke/judgment/kehc/2019/5 Documents with the doc doctype

Document type Example Subtype FRBR URI
Policy SADC Regional Water Policy policy /akn/aa-sadc/doc/policy/2005/water
Policy Framework Policy Framework for Pastoralism in Africa policy-framework /akn/aa-au/doc/policy-framework/auc-department-of-rural-economy-and-agriculture/2010/pastoralism
Framework and Guidelines* on Land Policy in Africa
* While the phrase ‘policy framework’ does appear in the document, we stand to be corrected on whether this document should fall under a different subtype, potentially ‘statement/framework-and-guidelines’. We hesitate to create subtypes that only include one document, but this may be an instance where it makes sense to do so.
Study Study on Transitional Justice and Human and Peoples’ Rights in Africa study /akn/aa-au/doc/study/achpr/2018/transitional-justice-and-human-and-peoples-rights
Yearbook African Human Rights Yearbook Volume 3 (2019) yearbook /akn/aa-au/doc/yearbook/achpr/2019/3 Documents with the documentCollection doctype

Document type Example Subtype FRBR URI
Texts Regulatory and Institutional Texts for the Implementation of the Yamoussoukro Decision and Framework Towards the Establishment of a Single African Air Transport Market texts /akn/aa-au/documentCollection/texts/austc-transport-infrastructure-energy-tourism/nd/implementation-of-the-yamoussoukro-decision

3.7.2 Country legislation

This non-exhaustive table is based on our experience with legislation from the jurisdictions listed below. We’ve mostly worked with only the English documents from these jurisdictions so far.

We’ll therefore very likely be adding to this table in future, but barring a major overhaul we won’t change what’s in it so far.

You may notice that only act is used as the doctype; this is because our focus within countries has been only on gazetted legislation, for which we will always use act.

These countries have helped informed this table:

  • Botswana
  • Ghana
  • Kenya
  • Lesotho
  • Malawi
  • Mauritius
  • Namibia
  • Nigeria
  • South Africa
  • Tanzania
  • Uganda
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe
Document type Example Subtype FRBR URI
Act Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund Act 73 of 1993 (Nigeria) /akn/ng/act/1993/73
Board Notice Directions Regarding Livestock Auctions (Board Notice 85 of 2020) (South Africa) bn /akn/za/act/bn/2020/85
By-law Control of Temporary Advertisements By-law (Mbizana Municipality, South Africa) by-law /akn/za-ec443/act/by-law/2017/temporary-advertisements
Constitution Namibian Constitution (Namibia) /akn/na/act/1990/constitution
Constitutional Instrument None found ci
Corrigendum None found corr
Decree Interpretation Act (Chapter 3, Decree 18 of 1976) (Uganda) decree /akn/ug/act/decree/1976/18
Executive Instrument Imposition of Restrictions (Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Pandemic) (No. 5) Instrument, 2020 (Executive Instrument 68 of 2020) (Ghana) ei /akn/gh/act/ei/2020/68
General Notice Order under Section 3(1)(a) of the Quarantine Act 2020: Prohibition of Aircraft and Ships into Mauritius (General Notice 1937 of 2020) (Mauritius) genn /akn/mu/act/genn/2020/1937
Government Notice Public Health (Corona Virus and COVID-19) (Prevention, Containment and Management) Rules, 2020 (Government Notice 48 of 2020) (Malawi) gn /akn/mw/act/gn/2020/48
Legal Notice Public Health (COVID-19) Regulations, 2020 (Legal Notice 38 of 2020) (Lesotho) ln /akn/ls/act/ln/2020/38
Legislative Instrument Labour Regulation, 2007 (Legislative Instrument 1833 of 2007) (Ghana) li /akn/gh/act/li/2007/1833
Local Authority Notice Rights of Way for Electronic Communications Facilities (Local Authority Notice 1628 of 2008) (Johannesburg Municipality, South Africa) lan /akn/za-jhb/act/lan/2008/1628
Ministerial Order Ministerial Order: South African Civil Aviation Authority (Unnumbered Ministerial Order, 2020) (South Africa) mo /akn/za/act/mo/2020/civil-aviation-authority-covid-19
Municipal Notice Electricity Supply By-law (Durban Transitional Metropolitan Council): Correction (Municipal Notice 7 of 1999) (eThekwini Municipality, South Africa) mn /akn/za-eth/act/mn/1999/7
Official Notice Mpumalanga Nature Conservation Regulations, 1999 (Official Notice 2 of 1999) (Mpumalanga Province, South Africa) on /akn/za-mp/act/on/1999/2
Ordinance Foreign Judgments (Reciprocal Enforcement) Act (Chapter 9, Ordinance 4 of 1961) (Uganda) ord /akn/ug/act/ord/1961/4
Premier’s Notice Mpumalanga Nature Conservation Act, 1998: Commencement (Premier’s Notice 1 of 1999) (Mpumalanga Province, South Africa) premn /akn/za-mp/act/premn/1999/1
Proclamation Stage 3: COVID-19 Regulations: Erongo Region (Proclamation 26 of 2020) (Namibia) p /akn/na/act/p/2020/26
Provincial Notice KwaZulu-Natal Gaming and Betting Regulations, 2012 (Provincial Notice 64 of 2012) (KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa) pn /akn/za-kzn/act/pn/2012/64
Statute Judicature Act (Chapter 13, Statute 13 of 1996) (Uganda) statute /akn/ug/act/statute/1996/13
Statutory Instrument Electronic Records (Evidence) (Date of Commencement) Order, 2016 (Statutory Instrument 45 of 2016) (Botswana) si /akn/bw/act/si/2016/45