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 brand-new World Bank report, "Securing Africa’s Land for Shared Prosperity", 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 modernize 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 percent of the population living below US$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 percent 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 percent 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 revolutionize agricultural production, end land grabbing, and eradicate extreme poverty in Africa.
An action plan for change
The report suggests that Africa could finally realize the vast development promise of its land over the course of the next decade by:
- Championing reforms and investments to document all communal lands and prime lands that are individually owned;
- Regularizing tenure rights of squatters on public land in urban slums that are home to 60 percent of urban dwellers in Africa;
- Tackling the weak governance and corruption endemic to the land governance system in many African countries which often favor the status quo and harm the interests of poor people;
- Generating the political will of African governments to mobilize behind these land reforms and attract the political and financial buy-in of the international development community.
Article continues on pages two and three: opportunities for change have never been better, but these challenges remain...