Conference on Land Policy in Africa 2019: An Interview with Professor Rexford Ahene | Land Portal | Securing Land Rights Through Open Data

Next week the Conference on Land Policy in Africa (CLPA) - 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 Rexford Ahene, Professor of Economics at Lafayette College and the Chair of the High Level Presidential Panel 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 African Union recognizes 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. However, most governments are seen as not doing enough to combat the problem.  In many corruption perception indices, Africa is perceived as the most corrupt region in the world. In fact, according to a newly released survey report by Transparency International which pooled over 43,000 respondents in Sub-Saharan Africa, nearly one in five Africans paid bribes to obtain official documents, and access to medical care is sometimes negotiated through an unofficial fee or gift. It is therefore evident that corruption has deleterious effects on the socio-economic development, peace, and stability of the African continent.

Corruption increases poverty and perpetuates exclusion by depriving millions of people of public services including basic needs like food, access to clean water, quality education and health services. A 2015 baseline study by Transparency International found above, 77.4% of respondents in Sub-Saharan Africa consider land as a very important resource for social cohesion and economic livelihood. Given the centrality of land as a valuable sustaining asset for communities and for national development, and the complexity of African land tenure systems, corruption and abuse of state power by politicians, elite technocrats and by self-dealing traditional leaders is a persistent narrative driving the need for transparent land policy reforms throughout Africa. Tackling corruption in the land sector, through creating good land governance and building robust land governance institutions will contribute towards attainment of the Africa envisioned in Agenda 2063.

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

I see four closely related issues that need to be dealt with to address land corruption: First, most of Sub-Saharan Africa needs an innovative, affordable, and decentralized model for the registration and administration at a national scale to enhance transparency and accountability in land administration and land use management. Second, there is a critical necessity to provide a robust legal framework for designing land tenure governance interventions as a necessary requirement for the realization of secure tenure for all legitimate right holders. Third, improving the legal and regulatory framework for improving the land and property rights of women and girls is vital to overcoming poverty and inequality, ensure justice and human rights. However, mainstreaming gender equal land rights should be accompanied by sustained sensitization designed to change entrenched customary norms and discriminatory practices. Fourth, interest in sustainable land-based investing is growing yet there are real financial consequences of investing in land with unclear tenure rights. Investors in many African countries who ignore the issue of land tenure expose themselves to substantial, and in some cases extreme, risks. Finally, to significantly curbing corruption in land access distribution and land use management, governments should take full advantage of affordable digitally-enabled land use and spatial data management technology.

  

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

  • Conference papers and documentary on progress in land policy in Africa;
  • Best practice benchmarks on the security of tenure;
  • Information and data for land advocacy and interventions- baseline values, indicator data.
  • Stakeholders involved in land and corruption and guidance for improving interventions, activities, design and monitoring indicators; and
  • Selected papers from the conference will be peer-reviewed and published in a special issue of the Journal of land Policy and Geospatial Sciences.

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

The conference on Land Policy is a major policy dialogue, information sharing and learning. Its overall goal is to deepen capacity for land policy development, implementation and monitoring with a specific focus on emerging issues and Au commitments including tackling corruption. In a nutshell, the conference aims to:

  • Improve access to knowledge and information in support of evidence-based land policy development, implementation and monitoring in Africa;
  • Enhance and deepen the consensus among African policymakers, scholars, and stakeholders on promising avenues in the field of land policy-making;
  • Improved networking on land governance and land policy amongst land actors across the continent; and
  • Capture  a broad range of land-related local knowledge and know-how, and generate interest form CSOs, women organizations,  farmers organization, traditional leaders and the private sector.  

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

Sustainable Pathway for Africa’s transformation is a coherent collaborative policy and investment framework for accelerating the transition to sustainable food production systems and growth and sustainable development priority for African governments and the international development community. Security of tenure and corruption-free land administration and land use management is the catalyst for sustaining the investments necessary for achieving these transformative goals.

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