Since 2000, many African countries have adopted land tenure reforms that aim at comprehensive land registration (or certification) and titling. Much work in political science and in the advocacy literature identifies recipients of land certificates or titles as ‘programme beneficiaries’, and political scientists have modelled titling programmes as a form of distributive politics. In practice, however, rural land registration programmes are often divisive and difficult to implement. This paper tackles the apparent puzzle of friction around rural land certification. We study Côte d'Ivoire's rocky history of land certification from 2004 to 2017 to identify political economy variables that may give rise to heterogeneous and even conflicting preferences around certification. Regional inequalities, social inequalities, and regional variation in pre-existing land tenure institutions are factors that help account for friction or even resistance around land titling, and thus the difficult politics that may arise around land tenure reform. Land certification is not a public good or a private good for everyone.
Authors and Publishers
The Journal of Modern African Studies offers a quarterly survey of developments in modern African politics and society. Its main emphasis is on current issues in African politics, economies, societies and international relations. It is intended not only for students and academic specialists, but also for general readers and practitioners with a concern for modern Africa, living and working both inside and outside the continent.