The Citizen (Tanzania)
Content provided by Asianet-Pakistan
It is another beautiful Saturday morning. Our Muslim friends are on the holy month of Ramadan, some of our Christian friends are off to church, some families are on their way to the beach and weekend gateways.

Others are reading this and yet there are those watching a television programme, while enjoying a cup of tea and our beloved president is bringing a renewed hope to our country, indeed life is beautiful.

However, today is different, in terms of what I want to share with you coming from a week of exhibition at the Dar Property Expo at Diamond Jubilee giving, free legal advice on real estate matters upon which we were blessed to be visited by the Minister for Lands, Housing and Human Settlements Development with whom we had interesting conversations about the land law and government impressive plans to do away with the « zombie » that torments land tenure. So, today I came across an article of which I think it’s an interesting read over how land tenure can be used to revolutionise agriculture and eradicate poverty. The full article can be found at www.worldbank.org.

It is indeed true that sub-Saharan Africa is home to nearly half of the world’s usable, uncultivated land, but so far the continent has not been able to develop these unused tracts, estimated at more than 202 million hectares, to dramatically reduce poverty and boost growth, jobs and shared prosperity.

According to a new World Bank report, « Securing Africa’s Land for Shared Prosperity, » released sometime this month, African countries and their communities could effectively end ‘land grabs,’ grow significantly more food across the region, and transform their development prospects if they can modernise the complex governance procedures that govern land ownership and management over the next decade. Africa has the highest poverty rate in the world with 47.5 per cent of the population living below $1.25 a day.

« Despite abundant land and mineral wealth, Africa remains poor, » says Makhtar Diop, World Bank vice president for Africa. « Improving land governance is vital for achieving rapid economic growth and translating it into significantly less poverty and more opportunity for Africans, including women, who make up 70 per cent of Africa’s farmers yet are locked out of land ownership due to customary laws. The status quo is unacceptable and must change so that all Africans can benefit from their land. »

The report notes that more than 90 per cent of Africa’s rural land is undocumented, making it highly vulnerable to land grabbing and expropriation with poor compensation. However, based on encouraging evidence from country pilots in African countries such as Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Uganda, Securing Africa’s Land for Shared Prosperity suggests an action plan that could help revolutionise agricultural production, end land grabbing, and eradicate extreme poverty in Africa.

Now on the most interesting part is on what the report suggest. The report is of the opinion that the following has to be done:

1. Regularising tenure rights of squatters on public land in urban slums that are home to 60 per cent of urban dwellers in Africa.

2. Championing reforms and investments to document all communal lands and prime lands that are individually owned.

3. Tackling the weak governance and corruption endemic to the land governance system in many African countries, which often favour the status quo and harm the interests of poor people.

4. Generating the political will of African governments to mobilise behind these land reforms and attract the political and financial buy-in of the international development community.

The new report says it would cost African countries and their development partners, including the private sector, $4.5 billion spread over 10 years to scale up these policy reforms and investments.

Surging food commodity prices and foreign direct investment have increased the potential return on investing in effective land administration through higher agricultural yields and better market access and prices. Most African countries already have the basic land laws in place that recognise customary land rights and gender equality, which are essential to reinforce needed reforms.

In addition, new satellite and information technologies can greatly reduce the cost of land administration.

With only 10 per cent of Africa’s rural land registered, inefficient land administration means that it takes twice as long and costs twice as much to transfer land compared to industrialised countries, and weak governance is the leading cause for corruption in the land sector.

The report notes successful examples of how African governments have undertaken tough reforms, enacted laws and implemented progressive land policies that have benefited poor communities. Highlighting the need for greater capacity, the report finds that Ghana, Kenya and Uganda each have fewer than 10 professional land surveyors per one million people, compared to 197 in Malaysia and 150 in Sri Lanka. This is so for Tanzania as well. Of Kenya’s 206 registered land surveyors, only 85 were found to be practicing. The report points to the futility of building capacity without making complementary investments in land administration.

Africa has a huge vast land and potential to be the feeder of this world’s population. Our governments have done, but have to do more perhaps for countries, like Tanzania, think of re-writing all the land laws to better enhance land tenure, land transfer and land use. As the report suggest, this and the other three mentioned above can indeed help eradicate poverty and revolutionise the agricultural sector.

The author is a partner with ABC Attorneys of IT Plaza 8th Floor, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.