Land markets enable the transfer of land rights from one party to another. Permanent transfers of rights take place through sale or inheritance. Strictly speaking inheritance is not a market transaction; while temporary transfers of rights take place mostly through leasing. The nature of land markets vary greatly among African countries, as a number of countries do not have private land ownership, and rely instead on the granting of temporary or permanent use rights.
Land markets can facilitate general economic growth and poverty reduction. They enable land to flow to those who have the desire and ability to use land well, and enable transferors of rights to capture the value of their investment in land in the money they receive from the sale or lease. For the rural poor, however, evidence suggests that land sales markets often do not increase land access—and may actually reduce it—since the poor are more likely than others to lose land through distress sales or mortgage foreclosures.
Land leasing, on the other hand, with flexible terms and low upfront costs, may improve land access for the rural poor while reducing risk. Furthermore, leasing can be done formally or informally, under statutory or traditional laws and rules. However, leasing may also be problematic. Large-scale, long-term land leases have displaced farmers and disrupted pastoralists, while in some countries heavy restrictions on leasing have limited the poor’s access to land.