By Christabel Ligami

If African countries create innovative and good governance policies that promote equitable access to land and create an enabling environment for investments, it will unlock the productive potential of the continent.

These are the sentiments echoed by leaders at the Fifth Conference on Land Policy in Africa (CLPA) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, November 21 – 24, 2023.

Judith Nabakooba, Uganda’s Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development said there is a need for Africa to have good land governance policies that strengthen women‘s rights to land to achieve fair and sustainable outcomes for all.

“Uganda understands the relationship between land, trade and the wellbeing of the people. Effective land governance and management is the cornerstone of sustainable social justice,” said Ms. Nabooka, adding, “Policies formulated should be visional and must integrate climate change issues, and reform land justice systems.”

Josefa Sacko, Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development, Blue Economy and Sustainable Environment noted that there have been significant strides since the last CLPA in advancing land policies across the African Union Member States.

“Two years ago, we convened to address the challenges impeding sustainable land governance, and I am pleased to report that there has been a noticeable momentum in the implementation of policies aimed at fostering sustainable land administration practices,” said Ms. Sacko.

“One significant area of progress pertains to the advancement of women’s land rights, in alignment with the African Union’s agenda on land. Through targeted policy interventions, legal reforms, and awareness campaigns, we have witnessed tangible progress in elevating the status of women as key stakeholders in land governance.”

She said that commendable efforts have been made in Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea and Malawi to assess women’s rights to land in policies and laws and take action to address the identified gaps.

She noted that the African Land Policy Centre (ALPC) has started the process of developing the Continental Strategy for integrating gender within national land sectors.

On behalf of the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Robert Lisinge, Acting Director of the Private Sector Development and Finance Division said sound land governance systems are essential to facilitating youth, women, communities, and the private sector to engage and benefit from AfCFTA and digitalization.

“If African governments enforce good land governance and policies, it will support agro-industrial parks, infrastructure and renewable energy, all needed ingredients for industrialization and trade,” said Mr. Lisinge.

He noted that inclusive digital technologies can support land and trade policy-making processes through data driven decision making. They can identify opportunities for reform, job creation, climate change mitigation and adaptation, and food needs in Africa.

Kanziemo Leontine, Advisor, Natural Resources Management at the African Development Bank (AfDB), said land governance and regulating access to and use of land, is an enabler of accelerating the implementation of the AfCTA through contributing to the production of goods, unlocking agricultural potential, promoting gender equality, as well as balanced territorial development.

Furthermore, Agenda 2063 calls for governments to fully empower women in all spheres, with equal social, political, and economic rights, including the rights to own and inherit property, sign contracts, and register and manage businesses.

“The issue of good land governance becomes critical for the achievement of the AfCTA,” she said adding that governments should continue to invest in supporting women farmers.

Hans Lundquist, Ambassador of Sweden to Ethiopia and Djibouti, said land is a fundamental resource that provides well-being. By improving land governance, we can create prosperous land security and investment.

CLPA is organized by the tripartite consortium consisting of the African Union Commission (AUC), AfDB and ECA. CLPA takes on the AU theme of the year which, in 2023, is ‘Year of AfCFTA: Acceleration of the African Continental Free Trade Area Implementation.’

The adoption of this year’s CLPA theme is expected to generate greater political commitment and accelerate the effective implementation of the AfCFTA to fully benefit the African citizenry and achieve the aspirations and goals of Agenda 2063.