Last month, it came to light that some government officials in the Ministry of Lands had sold public school land at Livimbo Community Day Secondary School in Lilongwe to businesspersons. The scandal brought to light a hidden problem of corruption in the land sector. At the 2019 Conference on Land Policy held this week 25-29 November in Abijan, Ivory Coast, land experts brainstormed on how government such as Malawi can deal with corruption. Our Staff Writer Moses Michael-Phiri attended the conference and talks to director of Regional Integration and Trade Division at Economic Commission for Africa Dr. Stephen Karingi to explain more:
Land experts on the continent have been meeting, what’s the agenda?
This year’s land conference seeks to enhance commitment to capacity strengthening for land policy development and administration in Africa through improved access to knowledge on combatting corruption in the land sector. The conference also seeks to enhance partnerships and networks and to mobilise resources for promoting good governance in the African land sector.
The theme of this year’s Conference on Land Policy in Africa is “Winning the fight against corruption in the land sector in Africa”. This theme supports the AU designation of 2018 as the year of anti-corruption. This theme also highlights ECAs commitment to sound governance, transparency and accountability in African natural resource governance.
Why is the issue of corruption key at this land meeting?
Until we eliminate corruption, we have to keep talking about it. Corruption is costly. It makes it difficult for those who want to invest in infrastructure in the land sector—that translates into cost to the taxpayers because they are the ones who bear the blunt of corruption.
Secondly, land touches every sector of society. If you want to achieve social, economic, the Sustainable Development Goals [SDGs], or indeed Agenda 2063, each one of them relates to land. So we need to understand that our governments are hard pressed in mobilising the resources to finance their budgets. If you have a system where there are leakages in the transactions in the land market, that money does go into government coffers. This means government experiences budgetary stress because of corruption. And then, of course, there is the issue of corruption making it difficult for people to have access to land because of corrupt practices which denies people right to land.
Why does the land meeting matter?
It matters for Africa because land is central to social, economic and political development in Africa. Land in Africa is not simply an economic or an environmental asset. It is also a social and cultural resource. It was at the heart of many anti-colonial movements on the continent. It remains an important factor in the construction of social identity and the organisation of the religious, cultural and economic lives of many African communities.
Africa is home to 60 percent of the world’s unutilised but potentially available cropland. In 30 years, about half the world’s agricultural land will come from Africa. How Africa manages its land is therefore critical to its future social, economic and environmental well-being. This conference explores the ways in which Africa can harness its land resources for its accelerated sustainable development.
Women and youths are some of the constituents that need to be included in the land reform process. Can you explain why?
Most of the labour for the agriculture sector is provided by women and young people, yet most of those people do not access to land. We will then a situation where by those young people and women are looking for opportunity to access credit but do not have the chance to get it because they cannot use land either to use it as assets, capital for investments or even just to use it as collateral so that they can get finance for whatever they want to do.
So what needs to be done?
First, we do not need a situation where we differentiate between men and women—every person should have equal opportunity when it comes to owning land. Everyone should have an opportunity to own land. Secondly, governments need to implement strategies to ensure that women are able to at least have 30 percent of land that is registered in Africa. We need to have serious advocacy and governments have to make serious commitments towards that
When is said, what will be the way forward after this meeting?
I hope we can be able to harness good lessons of how countries have built issues of governance and corruption in the land sector and the benefits or results that they have got out of that in attracting investments in their countries. How such [land reforms or policies] have created jobs and I also hope we can put insights into areas where there are gaps that are being exploited to be taken care of so that we have better land administration and better land governance in Africa.