Closing Land Governance Research Gaps in Africa: NELGA Promotes Land Education, Knowledge and Culture at the 2021 Regional Land Policy Conference

For NELGA, the fourth Conference on Land Policy in Africa (CLPA) 2021 edition unwrapped inspiring and innovative ideas relating to land policy and its implementation in Africa. Held virtually from the 1st to  4th November 2021, CLPA was designed to accommodate critical sessions that showcased the continent’s progress in meeting the African Union land agenda. This includes the review of land administration frameworks, innovations, land management, and opportunities presented in academic research, action plans and data analysis for Africa.

With over 1,700 participants, the CLPA, which was organised by the Africa Land Policy Center (ALPC) with support of GIZ’s SLGA programme, provided the space for NELGA to contribute to the capacity development of land stakeholders in Africa. With the CLPA theme focus on Land governance for safeguarding art, culture and heritage towards the Africa We Want, the NELGA sessions aimed to provide land education, knowledge and research that is embedded in the evolving customary dynamics prevalent in the land space. Considering the hybrid nature of the CLPA, NELGA members from all over Africa had the opportunity to submit and present scientific papers to bridge research and policy gaps for land stakeholders. The session came fully loaded with ideas carefully analysed and approved by the CLPA scientific committee for presentation at the CLPA.

Besides individual NELGA members making paper presentations, land experts from NELGA teamed up to showcase innovation, best practice and progress to improve land systems in Africa in these three areas of work – Cultural dimensions in land research and training; Innovative actions towards meeting the African Union land agenda in Africa; and Analysis of land tenure systems in Northern Africa. These sessions ran between 1st and 3rd November and bridged knowledge gaps by presenting the findings from the comparative experience of NELGA nodes in bringing innovative solutions for sustainable land management via diverse cultural contexts in Africa. NELGA’s Programme Officer,  Dr. Desire Tchigankong, explains that the NELGA sessions educated landowners and practitioners on relevant knowledge and skills needed in securing livelihoods, economic growth, and sustainable development through the creative economy in both the rural and urban settings. These sessions, as he explained, would contribute to achieving sustainable growth while maintaining healthy land policies and cultural practices in Africa.

Africa needs more land professionals

Dr. Judy Kariuki, Economic Officer for the ALPC, spoke during the session,  Innovative actions towards meeting the African Union land agenda in Africa, on the progress the Network is making towards improving the academic land governance space in Africa. Reported progress includes the addition of land curricula at academic institutions that are framed within the principles of the AU land agenda. PhD programmes enrollment has increased and introduced in institutions which had no designated land themed programmes. Also, research now focuses on problem-solving rather than promotions which are gradually picking up within nodes and internalised in countries. Dr. Kariuki called for an increase in the number of land professionals in Africa and the introduction of African academic findings into curricula.

In line with other speakers, they recommend the regular uptake of curricula reviews and terrain assessment which takes into consideration new findings from industry experts and exposes land scholars to collaborative research and support continuous learning through a multidisciplinary approach to adequately prepare the land stakeholders and policymakers of the future for Africa.

Leverage on Innovation

“There continues to be poor understanding of how culture and heritage influences and transforms land administration systems. However, situations like the COVID-19 pandemic presented an environment to adopt new transformational approaches and leverage on technology to drive land themed campaigns, capacity development and a stronger understanding on how such themes influence the political economy of the land space in Africa,” explains Prof. Moeniba Isaacs, NELGA technical coordinator, Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS), University of Western Cape, South Africa at the masterclass on understanding how technology and innovation can improve land administration systems in diverse cultural context. She highlighted the evolution of technological innovations and synthesised them with land administration systems, bringing to light the positive result this would bring to both urban and rural communities in Africa. She explained that such innovation is characterised by what institutions and universities such as PLAAS present.

The session looked at universities as education providers and knowledge generators through research but are criticised for having a limited impact on society. For Innovation to be achieved in Universities offering land governance programs, major changes in institutional cultureare inevitable. Innovation requires collaboration with the private sector and government agencies to foster an enabling environment for innovative practices carried out by land programmes at higher institutions. This includes streamlining innovation in teaching and research, and Universities becoming systematic about scientific impact, budget for innovation and collaboration, and plan for intellectual asset management.

Land and North Africa

To improve the body of contemporary research work for policy reform on land governance in    Africa, the node embarked on a scoping study to gather baseline information on land systems in North Africa. The research provided data on capacity gaps and needs in creating an enabling environment for land reforms in Algeria, Tunisia, Mauritania, Morocco, Egypt, and Sudan. The research findings launched in 2021 provide a foundation for curricula development in line with AU curricula guidelines on land governance in Africa.  The Scoping study was reviewed and provided context for the captured countries at the masterclass which was conveyed by the NELGA North Africa node under Prof. Moha El-Ayachi and featured  Nabila Zouhiri, Siraj Sair, Heba Allah Khalil, Sait El Azark, and Salwa Saidi as speakers.

NELGA North Africa Coordinator Prof. Moha explained during the masterclass that scoping study showcase the important role of capacity development to land management, “Capacity development is crucial to addressing land conflicts, cadastral development, urban planning, and land use strengthens the local economy. One of the ways NELGA closes these capacity gaps is by setting up  Masters degree programs on land management and building a partnership program with its North Africa member universities.” He also stressed the need for more training and research actions. In bridging this gap,  the node has set up at IAV Hassan II university a Capacity Building Centre (CBC) to build capacity gaps identified in the regional scoping study.