Blockchain for Land Administration: News from TUM, KNUST and NELGA workshop on Securing Land Rights in Ghana

The TUM-KNUST Workshop on Blockchain and its applications to secure land rights was successfully held from 18th to 19th March 2021 at the Institute of Distance Learning Conference Centre in Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST). Stakeholders from public and private sectors, non-governmental organizations, policy advocacy groups, and traditional authorities were brought together during this workshop. According to Professor Walter De Vries of the Technical University of Munich (TUM), the main purpose of this 2-day workshop was to provide a platform for stakeholders in the land sector to deliberate on the potential of blockchain application to securing land rights in Ghana.

Property rights are a stepping stone in international development theory. The most elementary form of property rights is land rights. Over 80% of land titles in Ghana lack the documentation to prove ownership. The World Bank ranks Ghana with a Land Registering Index of 119 out of 190, describing the difficulty to register property. This makes land investment difficult and costly as it allows for fraud, multiple sales of land, conflicts among many claimants, and inefficiencies for acquiring property. Although the Government of Ghana attempted to develop a sustainable, fair, and well-functioning land administration system, not much has been achieved. Up until now, institutional bottlenecks have led to decreased transparency and development in property rights.

THEREFORE, the TUM-KNUST Workshop on Blockchain and its applications to secure land rights reignited the previous efforts made and advanced the way forward. During the workshop, there were several presentations from key land sector agencies and players in the country, both public and private. Day one focused on understanding the land administration architecture and land registration of Ghana and its challenges. Day two was dedicated to discussing the features of blockchain technology and its applications to securing land rights using case studies. A case study on Georgia, Kenya, Sweden, Canada, and the Netherlands was presented. Policy recommendations were also made, giving direction for further research regarding blockchain in land registration in Ghana.

The lack of effective collaboration among the land sector agencies, lack of change management processes, need for advanced technology and tools, and limited focus on public lands were some of the challenges raised during the discussions. It was clear from the presentations and the plenary discussions that blockchain technology was only a means to an end despite its potential. Blockchain technology in itself would not resolve the many fundamental challenges with land administration in Ghana, such as indeterminate boundaries of stools lands and corruption among public sector agents on top of others. According to Professor Walter De Vries, reward and punishment incentives for those who register their lands and those who do not, respectively, could be helpful.

Finally, the workshop was closed by encouraging stakeholders to keep this conversation running and annually provide progress reports on the foundation laid by this workshop.