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Land corruption in Sub-Saharan Africa

Corruption in land management hits the poorest people the hardest, creating situations that deny people's rights and damage livelihoods.

Land is a vital resource that sustains livelihoods across Sub-Saharan Africa, but also one that is heavily prone to corruption. Every second citizen in Africa has been affected by land corruption in recent years, according to a study by Transparency International.

Whether it’s an opaque deal between private investors and local authorities, citizens having to pay bribes during land administration processes, or customary laws that deny women their land rights, land corruption hits the poor and marginalised hardest.

For young people, land corruption in rural areas can sap entrepreneurial spirit and restrict access to employment, driving migration to overcrowded urban centres. The consequences are food insecurity, an increased risk of conflict and a threat to traditional ways of life. Land corruption eats away at national economies and stands in the way of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

For citizens, limited access to information, complex laws and procedures regulating land ownership, and insufficient access to justice are some of the driving forces behind land corruption in Africa, while insufficient capacity in local land offices and traditional institutions makes it more difficult for officials to support good governance practices.

In addition, rapid urbanisation has led to unaccountable land management and urban planning in many of Africa’s cities. Limited anti-corruption oversight by independent bodies, and a perceived lack of consequences for abusing power means the corrupt often get away with their crimes.

Goals

Launched in 2014, our Land and Corruption in Africa Programme is addressing these land corruption risks by:

  • Sharing information on how land corruption manifests and what its effects are.
  • Ensuring that land corruption and actions to fight it are put on the agendas of governments and international bodies like the African Union.
  • Raising the importance of combating land corruption in the global land governance debate.
  • Educating citizens about their land rights and how to defend them.
  • Working with governments, traditional authorities, the private sector and civil society to find solutions to combat land corruption.
  • Ensuring intergovernmental organisations, governments and business have procedures in place to sanction offenders and bring about justice for affected citizens.
  • Pushing for solutions to land corruption that are responsive to the needs of women, young people and other marginalised citizens.

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Achievements

Our key outputs include:

  • Country-by-country research on land corruption risks and the impact on citizens across 10 countries in Africa: Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
  • Surveys on citizens’ perceptions of land corruption and how it impacts their land tenure security and economic empowerment, especially among women and young people.
  • A web platform to map hotspots of land corruption on the continent, house dedicated research publications on the topic and promote information-sharing among the Transparency International movement and related partners.
  • Advocacy and education materials that give practical advice on how to combat land corruption.
  • Empowering citizens to raise their voices against land corruption and demand integrity from their leaders.

Increasing our impact

In the future we hope to broaden the scope of our work by:

  • Carrying out in-depth research to develop gender-sensitive anti-corruption solutions.
  • Ensuring that women are included in land governance projects across the continent.
  • Forming strong partnerships with other civil society organisations to find joint solutions to land corruption and land rights violations.
  • Developing solutions to land corruption and ensure these are published widely.
  • Taking part in regional and international land advocacy events to build stronger networks of partners and draw the world’s attention to how land corruption undermines sustainability and development in Africa.
  • Scaling up our work with the private sector to ensure land investments happen in a transparent, fair and sustainable way that benefit a country’s economy as well as its people.

We've also recently posted to the Land Portal:

More

Read our resolution calling for corruption-free land governance worldwide, which was unanimously adopted by more than 110 Transparency International chapters in Panama City, November 2016.