This guide is for developers who want to use the Laws.Africa Content API to fetch legislative content and metadata from Laws.Africa. We assume that you have a basic understanding of REST APIs and the Akoma Ntoso standard for legislation (acts in particular).

The API is a read-only API for listing and fetching published versions of legislative works. Using it, you can:

  • get a list of places (countries and localities)

  • get a list of all works by country and year

  • get a JSON description of a work

  • get Akoma Ntoso XML for a work

  • get a human-friendly HTML version of a work

Key concepts


All legislation content is contained in a place, which is either a country or a locality inside a country.

A country is identified by a unique ISO3166 two-letter country code such as za for South Africa.

A locality is a place inside a country such as a province, county, state or municipality. A locality is identified by a unique code, which is made up of the country code, a hypen, and a unique code assigned to the locality by a suitable authority. For example, the code for Cape Town, South Africa is za-cpt.


FRBR URIs are used heavily in the Laws.Africa API to identify works and expressions.

The FRBR URI is part of the Akoma Ntoso Naming Convention standard and builds on the principles in the Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR).

An example FRBR URI is /akn/za/act/1998/55 which identifies South African Act 55 of 1998. It is made up of these parts:

  1. akn - this prefix indicates the URI uses the Akoma Ntoso (AKN) format

  2. za - the place code identifying South Africa

  3. act - the work type

  4. 1998 - the year of the act

  5. 55 - the number of the act

Works and expressions

Two important concepts that are an essential part of the API are works and expressions.

  • A Work is a piece of legislation, such as an act, regulation or by-law. A work may be amended over time and may even have its title changed. A work is uniquely identified by a work FRBR URI which never changes.

  • An Expression is a version of a Work in specific language at a particular point in time. A work can have many expressions, usually one for each official language and amendment. An expression is uniquely identified by its own expression FRBR URI, which is derived from the work's FRBR URI.

An example of a work is the South African Employment Equity Amendment Act, 2013 (Act 55 of 1998) with unique work FRBR URI /akn/za/act/1998/55. This act has been amended a number of times since it was first passed. Each amended version (also called a point in time) is a unique expression of the work.

The English expression of the work, as it was amended on 17 January 2014, is uniquely identified by the expression FRBR URI /act/1998/55/eng@2014-01-17. You can see that this is built from the work's URI, with a language code eng and the expression date 2014-01-17 included.

Formatting Legislation HTML with Law Widgets

Laws.Africa transforms Akoma Ntoso XML into HTML content that looks best when styled with Laws.Africa's Law Widgets.

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