UN expert advises effective land governance to Africa’s development

Effective land governance is critical to achieving Africa’s development, particularly the continent’s 50-year development plan, Agenda 2063, says a UN Economic Commission for Africa expert. .

Stephen Karingi, Director of the ECA’s Regional Integration and Trade Division, made the remark at the 2019 Conference on Land Policy in Africa (CLPA2019) opened in Abidjan Monday. He said land was the foundational asset upon which economies were built, adding property rights were essential for creating a conducive environment for attracting private sector investment on the continent.

“Globally, success in achieving the sustainable development goals is underpinned by good land governance, as it contributes to eliminating poverty and hunger; promoting sustainable agriculture; advancing gender equality and women empowerment; and promoting inclusive economic growth; among other development objectives,” he said.

Mr. Karingi said environments of legal uncertainty not only undermined business confidence, but could foster corruption.

“Undeveloped systems with complex and unclear administrative processes contribute to lack of transparency and accountability in the administration of land. These conditions increase the likelihood of corruption. Corruption in the land sector has far-reaching implications for Africa’s development,” he added.

Winning the fight against corruption in the land sector: Sustainable pathways for Africa’s transformation, is the theme of the biennial conference. Mr. Karingi said the theme was timely, especially as Africa seeks to transform her economies.

“Effective land governance and management is also indispensable to efforts to promote inclusive and sustainable socioeconomic development in support of Africa’s structural transformation. Secure land rights for women can also increase women’s ability to enter into agricultural contracts in win-win land based investment models,” he said.

For her part Ambassador Josefa Sacko, the African Union Commission’s Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, said good land governance was essential for Africa’s development.

“Land in Africa is an important factor of production as most livelihoods and developmental activities are undertaken on land. With this in mind, we need to ensure that the way in which land is distributed and used plays an essential role in promoting sustainable development and achieving peace and stability on the continent,” she said.

Corruption in the land sector, the Commissioner said, can inhibit the ability for people to access and own land which in turn marginalizes some sectors of society thereby undermining their livelihoods and perpetuating conflicts, hunger and poverty.

“For us to win the fight against corruption we need to ensure that land is equitably distributed and accessed by all, more especially women, youths and other vulnerable groups. Women continue to contribute significantly towards agricultural production in Africa but in some circumstances are not able to enjoy their rights to land. It is therefore a reality that women and men still do not enjoy the same rights over land,” she added.

The African Development Bank’s Senior Vice President, Charles Boamah, for his part, said sound land policy was critical to economic growth, food security, and poverty alleviation across the continent.

“It can catalyse growth in agricultural productivity through tenure security and protection of land rights, which can in turn enhance investment opportunities in land,” he said, adding land administration systems in many countries on the continent were characterised by poor infrastructure and management practices largely because of corruption.

“Corruption is truly costly in every sense of the word. And it hits the poorest the hardest, particularly women and as a result, we perpetuate income and gender inequality.”

The conference is being attended by over 700 land experts and officials, representatives of civil society, UN agencies and related organisations.