Archival Legislation and Archival Services in Africa

Archival Legislation and Archival Services in Africa

Nathan Mnjama (University of Botswana, Botswana)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5868-4.ch003


The chapter provides conceptual underpinnings and experience of archival legislation and archival services in Africa. General perspectives of archival legislation and the development of archival services in Africa are outlined. Thereafter, the chapter links the concepts discussed to e-Government therefore accentuating the important role that archival services play even in emerging digital archiving environments.
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Duchein (1993, p. 57) avers that “archives and records legislation is probably as old and universal as archives themselves.” He further asserts that since archives are non-current records that have been selected for permanent preservation, “their preservation and use have long been regulated by the public powers.” The value of a well formulated archives and records legislation was perhaps best summed up by Roper (1999, p. 3) when he wrote saying, ”the enactment and implementation of comprehensive, up-to-date records and archives legislation is a critical prerequisite for the establishment of an effective, integrated system for managing records and archives throughout their life cycle.”

Parer (2000) asserts that archives and records legislation may be categorized into primary and secondary legislation. Primary legislation include acts, decrees, and ordinances usually passed by parliament while secondary legislation consists of statutory instruments such as rules and regulations which would normally be formulated by the minister responsible for the national archives. According to Hurley (1994), archives and records legislation in the world has been undergoing regular transformations. He sees each transformation as a generation. Hurley (1994) argued that archival institutions operating under the first generation archives and records legislation focus on:

  • establishing an archival authority;

  • prohibiting destruction without the archival authority’s approval;

  • empowering the authority to receive records withheld from destruction; and

  • Permitting access to transferred records unless restricted.

Archival institutions operating under the second generation may be categorized as those institutions which have gone beyond the first stage and are now involved in the management of current records and with the provision of greater access to information contained in them. Such archival institutions would normally:

  • require the transfer of records to the archival institution or approved depository after a prescribed period;

  • regulate records management activities; through setting of standards, formulation of policies and procedures; and

  • establish public rights of access to records after a specified lapse of time.

Finally, Hurley (1994) suggests that that third generation legislation will be distinguished by characteristics such as:

  • it will assume that recordkeeping is the business of government rather than just the business of an archival authority; and

  • it will outline the outcomes of recordkeeping and perhaps the principles for recordkeeping but will not concern itself with how recordkeeping happens or who undertakes it.

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