Corruption in the land sector in Africa is rampant and it has led to a rise in the number of land disputes before the courts, forced evictions and death of many people across the entire continent. Land management and distribution processes are largely opaque and controlled by powerful elites. Land barons have been a major headache for most African countries with little or nothing being done to rein them in.
The results have been worrying. The poor and marginalised populations have had their livelihoods threatened. Large multinational companies, coming in the name of investment, have snapped up large chunks of productive land, leading to the forced evictions of many rural populations and the urban poor.
The major culprits have been large multinational mining and agro-based industries. At a local level, land barons continue to haunt the land sector, with land commissions or managing institutions being too weak to control them. Bribe taking has also been a major feature of the African land sector. Voices are getting louder on how best African countries can end corruption in land.
Harnessing technology and innovation
One major factor being proposed is harnessing technology and innovation to tackle corruption in the land sector. At the biennial land conference which is underway in the Ivorian capital, Abidjan, experts say African countries must take practical steps to purge corruption in the land sector by harnessing technology and innovation.
African Development Bank (AfDB)vice president Charles Boamah told delegates at a conference on Land Policy in Africa that countries on the continent need to deploy more financial and human resources to land policy development, “especially in rural areas and among the most vulnerable.”
The biennial conference, organised by the Land Policy Centre, provides a central platform for African stakeholders to network and deepen their commitment to land policy development, implementation and monitoring, through access to knowledge and evidence-based policy-making.
This year’s dialogue, hosted by AfDB, is on the theme “Winning the Fight Against Corruption in the Land Sector: Sustainable Pathways for Africa’s Transformation.”
“This corruption takes many forms — bribery or illicit land transactions is just one example. Land developers and speculators specifically target countries with weak governance systems. Local powerful elites are also more likely to manipulate such systems to serve narrow ends not to benefit the public,” Boamah said.
To tackle corruption in the land sector, researchers say African countries need to create land portals with information showing land ownership data, court dispute cases, distribution and ecological regions.