This resource comes from the Journal of Development Studies, 2019 Vol. 55, No. 3, 384–400.
Land registration and titling in Africa is often advocated as a pro-poor legal empowerment strategy. Advocates have put forth different visions of the substantive goals this is to achieve. Some see registration and titling as a way to protect smallholders’ rights of access to land. Others frame land registration as part of community-protection or ethno-justice agendas. Still others see legal empowerment in the market-enhancing commodification of property rights. This paper contrasts these different visions, showing that each entails tensions and trade-offs. The analysis helps explain why land law reforms aiming at legal empowerment may be controversial or divisive in African countries.
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