ABIDJAN, IVORY COAST - The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) said the continent's land sector is the most corrupt area — second to the police — and the issue must be dealt with urgently if the continent is to develop.
The UNECA, African Development Bank and African Union are meeting to find ways to end corruption in the land sector in Africa.
On the sidelines of this conference in Ivory Coast, Joan Kagwanja of UNECA summed up corruption in Africa's land sector.
"The land sector in Africa is actually one of the most corrupt sectors of the economy. In most countries it is rated the second after the police,” Kagwanja said.
According to a recent report released by Transparency International, one in every five people worldwide has paid a bribe to access land services.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, the number rises to one in every two people.
Kagwanja said corruption takes place in institutions that give land rights, which results in an increase in the price of doing business in Africa.
"So if you want smallholders to invest in their small parcels of land, especially those near cities where there is a little bit of pressure, it becomes almost necessary to secure your rights so that your land is not taken because there is a little bit of pressure,” Kagwanja said. “Or, when investors are coming, you want to ensure that your rights are documented. But the means through which you do that sometimes takes 10 years to get a land certificate, land titles. So the corruption sometimes comes because the information is not accessible. So you need the people within the ministries (of land) to give you that documentation. So sometimes you are asked for a cut."
As a result of the trend, UNECA, the African Development Bank and the African Union are holding a "Conference on Land Policy in Africa" to find ways to fight the problem.
Drani Stephen, an official in the northern part of Uganda, says the problem of land corruption in his country is sometimes caused by conflicts in other countries, resulting in refugees illegally seeking land.
"There is corruption, which has led youths to die by people try(ing) to grab land and inciting youths into violence. Individuals trying to sell land, grab land from other people,” Stephen said. “These are people who have become property dealers. And there is corruption (by) people in government, who should be practicing good governance but are using their weight to throw people off their land. There is cross border corruption of people coming into Uganda from other countries and claiming land which is not theirs."
Kagwanja said her organization and the AU were working with African countries to come up with policies that stamp out corruption related to land in Africa.