State of land information in South Africa | Land Portal | Securing Land Rights Through Open Data

Uncovering South Africa's land information ecosystem

Land issues are at the heart of South Africa's struggles to overcome the legacy of over 300 years of white minority rule and apartheid. In spite of extensive land reforms to change the historic patterns and achieve justice in South Africa, land access, use, ownership and governance continue to mirror historic patterns of racial inequality. There is a need to understand the availability of land data and information in order to identify and target areas of intervention by government and non-state actors alike.

This State of Land Information in South Africa report provides an overview of existing data and information on key land issues. Its aim is to uncover the great diversity of land data and information sources in South Africa and thus provide a basis to substantiate, refute or nuance the often-repeated rhetoric that there is a lack of land data. The report was produced using an original scoping and assessment methodology that builds on recognized international frameworks. 

The report systematically reviews and categorizes the entire landscape of data and information related to key land topics in South Africa, assessing over 104 land resources from 59 different sources. This robust scoping exercise demonstrates not only trends and gaps in land data collection, but led to very practical recommendations to improve visibility and usability of data and information, thus seeking to improve the land information ecosystem in the country.

Key findings of the report:

  • 67% of key land resources are available as statistical or geospatial data, not documents.
  • The government of South Africa is the main provider of data (over 60%). 
  • Perspectives from Civil Society account for only 8% of the total resources identified, suggesting that their data and information is not published in a way that makes it visible for a wider audience. 
  • While most land-related knowledge is published online in South Africa (97%) and is mostly available for free (75%), 40% of the resources identified have some kind of login barrier.

The report includes a range of recommendations for improving the land information ecosystem in South Africa, such as facilitating equitable access to data by removing login requirements or payment barriers, supporting and enforcing the use of standards when publishing data and metadata, applying open open licenses to published data and information and commissioning specific research and action into availability of data and information from civil society organizations to gain a further understanding in their data and information supplies as well as sharing practices, among others

This is the fifth State of Land Information report produced by the Land Portal, which seeks to provide an overview of publicly available data and information on key land issues from government and other stakeholders in targeted countries. The aim of these reports is to uncover land data and information at the country level and help to identify data and information gaps, with a view to establishing a baseline for targeted ‘information-based’ interventions to improve the information ecosystem. Previous reports have been published on KenyaSouth SudanTanzania and Uganda.

Download the report.

The Land Portal would like to acknowledge the work of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in scoping and documenting the South African information landscape. Substantive content from the full CSIR report, along with the findings from the Land Portal's open data compliance assessment, are presented in this final report. The CSIR report authors were M. Napier, A. Rosenfeldt, and A. Cooper. CSIR contributors to the scoping exercise included B. Crankshaw, A. le Roux, and A. Breytenbach.


This work is funded by the UK Department of International Development (DFID) as part of the Land: Enhancing Governance for Economic Development (LEGEND) program, which is dedicated  to improving the quality and impact of land investments so they contribute sustainably to growth while safeguarding rights and opportunities for poor people, rural and urban, and especially women.

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