Conference on Land Policy in Africa 2019: An Interview with Marc Wegerif | Land Portal | Securing Land Rights Through Open Data

Next week the Conference on Land Policy in Africa - Winning the Fight against Corruption in the Land Sector: Sustainable Pathway for Africa’s Transformation, will take place in Abidjan. The African Union recognises that corruption is a key factor hampering efforts at promoting governance, socio-economic transformation, peace and security, and the enjoyment of human rights in the Member States.

This conference is a major policy dialogue, information sharing  and learning event. Its overall goal is to deepen capacity for land policy development and implementation with specific focus on emerging issues and AU commitments including tackling corruption in the land sector through access to knowledge and information in support of evidence-based land policymaking.

We had the opportunity to hear from Dr. Marc Wegerif, a Postdoctorate Research Fellow at the Human Economy Programme, University of Pretoria, who will be a speaker at the CLPA. Here are his thoughts.

1) Why is it important that the 2019 Conference on Land Policy in Africa focus on land corruption?

The focus on corruption appears to be a donor agenda. They are interested to shine the light on what they see as corruption and mismanagement in Africa while overlooking some more important and systemic land and agricultural sector injustices. What the donors are less keen on is the massive land injustices, land inequalities and land grabs that are legitimized through the influence of national and international elites on policy process. Through this, those who have taken the most and brought about land injustices that have the most negative impacts in people in poverty in Africa use their power to legitimize their own practices and protect what they have. 

This focus on corruption will only be important and relevant if we reconceptualize it more broadly to include land injustices, whether legalized or not, that are causing inequality and undermining African people’s control of their land and leaving too many people in poverty. We cannot successfully address “corruption” without also addressing land injustices as a whole and the entrenchment and abuse of power in a few hands.

 

2) In your view, what are the most pressing issues that need to be dealt with in terms of land corruption in Africa?

Land rights and access inequalities, which are driven by local, national and international elites who collaborate together and with political leaders to advance their interests and rent seeking. Land grabs and wider extension of corporate and elite control and rent seeking into all parts of the agricultural and food sector, including inputs, processing and retailing. The strengthening of women’s land rights is an essential part of what needs to happen as part of a wider process of addressing land injustices.

 

3) What concrete outcomes do you envision for the conference?

An understanding and wider agreement that tacking corruption is not enough and will not be successful without tackling wider land injustices and inequalities. A commitment from donors and other decision makers and policy influencers to a renewed effort to addressing land injustices from land grabs, corporate control of the food and agricultural sector and the continued marginalisation of women.

 

4) What do you hope to accomplish during this Conference on Land Policy in Africa in terms of policy dialogue?

To shift the dialogue from a narrow focus on corruption to a more nuanced and more holistic understanding of the dynamics of corruption and injustice. Including looking at how practices that those in poverty use to get ahead are undermined, while the practices the elite use to hold onto power are legitimised. I will push for a more comprehensive approach that seeks justice and more equitable land dispensation, combined with agriculture and food sector, that works for more people. Giving more people economic and ownership opportunities and a right to food.

 

5) What does a ‘Sustainable Pathway for Africa’s transformation’ look like in your view in terms of land corruption?

It will not be successful or sustainable if a narrow, often northern donor driven and elite supported view of corruption is dominant. What it needs to look like is an inclusive process and set of outcomes that dismantles elite and corporate dominance and maximizes opportunities for the majority. Systems that build on what women are doing and fit women’s needs and practices. This has to include valuing small-scale and agroecological production, valuing the smaller-scale traders and processers, enabling vibrant local and regional markets, and above all learning from and building on the practices of the subaltern.

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