Africa tackles large scale land-based investments

by Trust Matsilele 0

Africa has taken the first step towards tackling land as a strategic resource for inclusive and sustainable development.

The African Union launched Guiding Principles on Large Scale Land Based Investments in Africa (LSLBI).

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The launch took place during the Inaugural Land Policy Conference in Africa, this Wednesday at the African Union Conference Center in Addis Ababa.

Over the next decade, African countries are expected to draft policies that recognise the strategic importance of land and encourage its efficient use in Africa’s efforts for structural transformation, industrialisation and inclusive development.

Joan Kagwanja, chief of the Land Policy Initiative, housed by the Economic Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa said the move will help inland management.

“This set of principles will equip African countries and enable them to manage land in a transparent and sustainable manner and to negotiate investments with knowledge of resources available on land as well as the rights attached to it,” said Kagwanja.

The AU added that issues around land use and management were becoming important and will increasingly gain prominence as Africa continues to be an attractive destination for foreign – and local – investors.

“The continual discovery of minerals, and more recently, of oil puts more pressure on governments to negotiate deals that are both economically and socially beneficial to the peoples of Africa and this includes the way land is allocated and the consequences it has on populations living close to mining sites and oil fields,” said the AU.

Africa accounts for nearly 60 per cent of the world’s arable land, has a population of just over one billion individuals and records high demographic rates.

“With global needs for food security rising, it is not surprising that Africa is seen as the next global ‘food reserve’ and that investors are vying for large portions of land ushering an era of controversial changing of hands of vast swathes of land, in some cases, without compensation to the affected populations.”

Kagwanja said when the land grabs took place from 2008, African countries were not ready.

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“Land had not been mapped, owners were unidentified and as a consequence, contracts were not negotiated in a way to make investments sustainable and dwellers ended up losing the most.”

Kagwanja says the challenge, following the launch of the LSLBI, is their adoption and operationalisation by AU member States.

“We have already launched a series of training to build capacity of leaders, parliamentarians, jurists and other practitioners specialising inland issues.”

“We hope that within the next three years at least, we will be able to stop land grabs. And that over the next decade, land management will have seen much needed improvement.”