AfDB, AUC and ECA pledge to work together to strengthen Africa’s complex land governance systems

The issues surrounding land in Africa are myriad, complicated, and even deadly. Even though countries on the continent have land laws, systems and structures, matters of land ownership, sales, development and management are thorny. Land governance to a large extent is at the heart of property ownership, poverty, food security and Africa’s dire housing crisis.

To address the issues around land, the African Development Bank (AfDB), the African Union Commission (AUC), and the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), have together pledged to work with governments on the continent to strengthen land governance.

A press release copied to Ghana Business News noted that in a joint declaration at the end of the 2021 Conference on Land Policy in Africa, the organizations pledged financial and technical assistance “to ensure that land governance and land policy processes in Africa are transparent, lucid and accessible and that state and indigenous systems are easily integrated.”

They also pledged to work with practitioners in arts, cultutre and heritage to increase awareness and appreciation of land issues on the continent.

They pledged to work more closely with governments to beef up land governance systems.

“At this time when the world is also engaged in the COP26 process, we wish to underscore the fact that large parts of our continent are deserts or semi-arid and are facing ecological damage. Yet, more than often, unequal distribution of land has relegated a growing population of small holder farmers, women, and youth to marginal areas, leading to increased pressure on land and land resource degradation,” said the declaration, read by Leontine Kanziemo, Advisor, Natural Resources Management at the AfDB.

The declaration called for greater land equity in order to broaden access to natural resources. It also said it was crucial to work with governments, artists and cultural leaders to ensure that women and youth have access to land. “The majority of our people rely on land for a living. Therefore, pro-poor land policy should be transparent to all land users, equitable, and free of corruption,” the partners said.

The declaration called for traditional custodians of African art, heritage, and culture to be included in all pro-poor land policies. “In addition, in the aftermath of the recently concluded UN Food System Summit, land governance should be critically considered as an influential enabler in the transformation of African food systems.”

King Mfumu Difima Ntinu, President of the African Traditional Authority, pointed out that efficient land governance requires political will and urged African countries to pay more attention to the role of women in land matters. “With your help, we will get there,” he added.

In his remarks, Rexford Ahene, Chair of the Conference’s Scientific Committee, made a point about the connection between land and the creative industries, saying land’s economic potential, and the benefits of creative industries, should not be underestimated.

According to the World Trade and Tourism Council, the creative industries will add $269 billion to African GDP by 2026 and more than 29 million jobs with skills that are attractive to young people. “It is important to take that into account,” Ahene explained.

He called on governments and development partners to invest resources in building the creative sector’s capabilities and preserving intellectual property and rights to “safeguard and protect the creativity and innovation that this sector delivers.”

The conference held under the theme: “Land governance for safeguarding art, culture and heritage towards the Africa We Want”, was hosted by the Rwanda government in a hybrid format, with participants gathering physically in Kigali and online.

The organizers also integrated arts and culture in the conference, anchoring the power of the creative sector in land matters.

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi
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