In recent years, there has been considerable discussion of the ethical challenges of conducting research in developing countries, including African countries. Although few empirical studies have been conducted in relation to this, some commentators have cited the lax regulatory environment in many developing countries, including African countries, as one of the motivating factors for increased research by pharmaceutical companies and other developed countries' sponsors. With the recent increase in research in the developing world including African countries have come allegations of unethical conduct which has exposed research participants to harm. Certain allegations of unethical conduct underscore the need for regulation of research in African countries. Chief among the issues raised by these allegations are the failure to obtain informed consent and ethics approval for studies conducted on humans. The Pfizer incident in Nigeria illustrates these issues. African countries are, however, increasingly beginning to grapple with issues of the ethical conduct of research. Some have recently developed national guidelines and established national ethics review committees. But, at present, many African countries lack legislative frameworks governing research involving humans, including biomedical research. This paper contends that given the need to protect the safety, dignity and welfare of persons involved in research in developing countries, ensuring ethical conduct of research in African countries should involve the use of functional and comprehensive legal frameworks. Comprehensive domestic legal frameworks, which include legislation, it is argued, can play an important role in clarifying the requirements for the ethical conduct of research, outlining responsibilities and providing a system of accountability.