This Land is NOT for Sale

Want to sell your property in a developed economy?
Put up a for sale sign.
Want to keep your property in an emerging economy?
Put up a NOT for sale sign.

Not for sale signs are increasingly dotting the landscape from Nigeria to Tanzania.

They shine a spotlight on the intensifying demand for land across Africa and the chaotic or dysfunctional land governance systems that continue to undermine security and economic growth.

Land remains the most valuable and least secure asset across most of Africa. The World Bank estimates that 90 percent of the land in Africa is undocumented. And a majority of Africa’s women and men rely on this land, to which they have insecure rights, for their housing and their livelihoods.

The lack of land rights documentation – and the fraudulent documentation that often accompanies dysfunctional land systems – means people sometimes buy land from someone who doesn’t own it. Often there is no up-to-date or open government land registry leaving an interested buyer with no way to check that they are negotiating to buy a property with the people who actually own it. So people who own land are sometimes confronted by investors who have paid good money to buy their land from someone with no ownership rights. This is particularly problematic for marginalized groups, especially women, who usually lack legal documentation of their land rights and upon being widowed, often find others claiming rightful ownership of the land they live on or farm.

Increasing recognition of the foundational role land rights play in sustainable development is now prompting governments to address this challenge with Liberia, Ghana, and Uganda all working on developing a land rights system.

Just last week, Liberian President President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf told the African Green Revolution Forum that the continent would continue to be stalked by hunger and famine until countries provided smallholder farmers with the security and opportunity they need to invest in their land and improve their harvests through strengthening land rights.

Now, a new interactive survey is helping highlight this issue and the impact insecure land rights have on conservation, security, poverty alleviation, and women’s economic empowerment in Africa and beyond.

This article was originally posted on All Africa.