Developing effective land administration systems is challenging. They require financial resources and trained personnel, both of which are in short supply in most African countries. Customary land administration arrangements and statutory systems are often disconnected, and reconciling the two in a manner that serves the rural poor, and land users generally, can be difficult. Furthermore, weak land administration contributes to use of land for patronage purposes.
Land administration is a general term for the processes of land rights’ recognition, land use planning, land taxation, and developing accurate land information. It is central to the effective management of land and, therefore, critical to development in Africa. Land administration includes: the allocation of rights to land; the setting of land boundaries; the transfer of land rights through sale, lease, loan, gift or inheritance; and the adjudication of land disputes. It includes enforcement of land-use regulations and land valuation. Land administration can be applied through formal (statutory) or informal (customary) land tenure rules.
Inadequate land administration can lead to problems. Without effective land registries—which provide a record of deeds or title documents—land parcels can be allocated to multiple people, resulting in conflict and insecure tenure. Without effective conflict resolution mechanisms, disputes can escalate into civil unrest and can turn violent. And without effective land-use planning, land will not be put to its most efficient uses.
Given their importance, many African countries are working hard to modernize and streamline their land administration systems.