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Best Practice in Emerging Land Reform in Africa Today

By: Liz Alden Wily

This short paper examines the proliferation of land reform throughout the African continent, finding similarities amongst national policies and identifying key strengths and weaknesses. Broadly speaking, the author notes two important developments regarding land policy, governance, and administration in Africa: an upgraded legal standing for customary land rights and a growing shift towards decentralized local and community-based systems of land administration. In addition to the strengthening of customary rights and the simplification of registration procedures for traditionally held lands, governments, stimulated in part by international donors, have placed growing emphasis upon collectively held or common properties including forests, woodlands, and pastures. According to the author, land policy reforms enacted in Tanzania, Lesotho, and Uganda are most exemplary of recognized best practices, including the heightened participation of land holders in governance and administration decisions, the strengthening of common property rights, and the introduction of restrictions upon the state’s authority to interfere in local land administration and to appropriate land for the public interest. Despite possessing the most advanced legislative frameworks, these countries still suffer from deficiencies in implementation and other pressing weaknesses such as a wavering political will to safeguard customary rights to land and a lack of capacity among local administrators and leaders to effectively exercise authorities devolved from central government.

Keywords: decentralization, customary land tenure, best practices, land registration, common property, state appropriation of community lands.

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Uploaded on: Aug 14, 2015
Last Updated: Dec 04, 2015
Year Published: 2004
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