Conventions, changes, and contradictions in land governance in Africa: The story of land grabbing in North Sudan and Ghana

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Journal Article
Africa Today, 2012, 59 (2), pp. 59 - 78
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Land-tenure systems in Africa are undergoing directed transformation widely believed to promote secure tenure, increase access to credit, and reduce poverty levels. Critics claim that the process is mainly designed to benefit transnational corporations that grab land from local people and convert it from farmland to investment land. Using North Sudan and Ghana as case-study areas and drawing on multiple sources of evidence, including official policy documents, land acts, and existing court cases, this paper examines the nature of land tenurial systems, explores their changing character, and identifies the tensions and contradictions within the systems and the processes of change. It finds little support for the official rhetoric that the transformation in land-tenure systems leads to secure tenure but mixed results for the claim that the process creates avenues for obtaining credit. Furthermore, at least in North Sudan and Ghana, the state grabs land and sells it to amass wealth and power under the guise of compulsorily acquiring land in the public interest and for title registration.
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