The Third Conference on Land Policy in Africa opened on November 25, 2019, in Abidjan. This year’s conference, hosted by the African Development Bank, is themed “Winning the Fight against Corruption in the Land Sector: Sustainable Pathways for Africa’s transformation.”
Corruption in the land sector can inhibit the ability for people to access and own land which in turn can marginalize some sectors of society thereby undermining their livelihoods and perpetuating conflicts, hunger and poverty. Speaking during the opening ceremony, H.E Amb. Josefa Sacko, African Union Commission (AUC) Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, emphasized that land in Africa is a valuable economic resource and a key factor of production through which most livelihoods and developmental activities are undertaken.
“The equitable distribution of land plays an essential role in promoting sustainable development and achieving peace and stability on the continent. Therefore, good land governance is essential for Africa’s development,” she said.H.E Amb. Josefa Sacko further called for the equitable distribution and access to resources for all, most especially women, youths and other vulnerable groups. She emphasized the fact that women continue to contribute significantly towards agricultural production in Africa but in most circumstances are not able to enjoy their full rights to the land. It is, therefore, a reality that women and men still do not enjoy the same rights over land. She called on African Governments to ensure that land management processes are transparent, accountable, efficient and responsive to the new challenges of climate change, natural disasters and environmental degradation.
Hon. Sansan Kambile, Justice Minister of Cote d’Ivoire, called on the AU Member States to prioritise land tenure security as a development objective.“Without land tenure security, and the various implications, no development can be sustainable. It is a collective responsibility which we must pursue to leave a worthy legacy for future generations,” he said. Hon. Kambile further stated that the Ivorian government was keen to see workable outcomes from the Land Conference for adoption into the Country’s land administration system.
Mr Charles Boamah, Senior Vice-President, African Development Bank urged African countries to act faster to purge corruption in the land sector by harnessing technology and innovation.“According to Transparency International, globally, one in five persons has paid a bribe for land service. In Africa, every second, a client of a land administration service has paid a bribe. This corruption takes place in many forms — bribery or illicit land transactions is just one example. Land developers and speculators specifically target countries with weak governance systems. Local powerful elites are also more likely to manipulate such systems to serve narrow ends with hardly or no benefit to the public,” he said.
Dr Stephen Karingi, Director of Regional Integration, Trade Division of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, said effective land governance would help reduce the cost of doing business in Africa and help contribute immensely to the African Union’s Agenda 2063 master plan for transforming Africa into the global powerhouse of the future.
The AUC remains committed to securing land rights and improving land governance in Africa, by working with member states and partners to steadily make progress towards achieving the AU agenda on land, as adopted by the Third Ordinary Session of the Specialized Technical Committee (STC) on Agriculture, Rural Development, Water and Environment, held from the 21st to the 25th of October, 2019 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Notably, the decisions made by the STC among others include:
• The adoption of Guidelines on Prevention and Addressing Land-based Conflicts in Africa;
• The adoption of the Monitoring and Evaluation of Land Governance in Africa (MELA) as the Framework to track and report progress on commitments related to land by AU member states;
• The request for the Member States to harmonize legal frameworks in favour of women’s land and property rights with a focus on gender-responsive inheritance laws;
• Member States to collect both sex-disaggregated data and specific data on women’s land tenure security to better understand variables affecting women’s land tenure security.
This Conference on Land Policy in Africa provides an opportunity for all key stakeholders in the Land Sector to find as well as share lessons and experiences on how various innovations and tools in the land sector can improve land governance and contribute to addressing many of the developmental challenges faced on the continent.