Africa should seize the opportunity to invest in its land, through strategies and interventions that focus on the bulk of the continent’s population - the youth, according to sentiments echoed at the opening of the Conference on Land Policy 2017 in Addis Ababa Ethiopia.
While welcoming conference participants, Dr. Janet Edeme of the African Union Commission (AUC) lauded the work being undertaken by the African Land Policy Centre, formerly the Land Policy Initiative, in supporting African Union (AU) Member States to develop land policies that protect the rights of communities, women and marginalized communities. She urged participants to explore solutions to land governance in order to contribute to the transformation of the continent.
United Nations Economic Commission for Africa Deputy Executive Secretary AbdallaHamdok said equitable access & utilization of land and its resources is vital for sustainable economic growth, increased agricultural productivity & the development of a robust agribusiness on the continent
“Land forms the basis for agriculture, forestry, mining, industry, tourism and urban development. But to maximize on the benefits of land and its resources, inclusion of land users in decision making on how land is governed and managed is crucial,” said DrHamdok , adding that access to land by the youth means economic empowerment
“Africa ought to see land as a major resource to enhance food security, peace and security and ensure environmental protection. By developing inclusive land policies, we create an opportunity for investment while simultaneously protecting the interests of the African people.”
He said that thousands of Africans have been swallowed by the sea or abandoned in the desert, in pursuit of a decent life because they believe there is no hope at home. They testify to the urgent need to act.
Rechael Mwikali, youth and women representative, said young women and men on the continent need to secure land rights as many of them live in rural areas and urban areas but have limited access to land.
However, inheritance and customary practices make transfer of land to women a challenge. This is a challenge for sustainable agriculture.
“Why would you put extra efforts to develop land that is not yours and that you won't be able to pass on to your children?” MsMwikali asked. Other people at the Conference have argued that youth are more concerned about accessing land for use as a major priority other than private ownership.
More than 70% of African population is made up by youth. "Why are out voices neglected then?" ask young people in Africa
The theme of the Africa land policy conference is aligned with the African Union Declaration of 2017 as African’s Year of Youth as agents for socioeconomic transformation
Gabriel Negatu, Director General, Africa Development Bank – Eastern Africa said that in Africa, land is not only an economical asset. It is also a social and cultural resource as well as sign for religious and Political identity
“Without proper management of African natural resources it will be difficult to achieve,” said MrNegatu
“The challenge of policy going forward is to compensate those that are marginalized even as we involve private sector in land use,” he emphasized.
Mathias Schauer, German Deputy Ambassador noted that there is no doubt that land is central to livelihoods and sustainable development"
“Used wisely, Africa’s abundant natural resources and land can help halt youth migration,” he said.
“The key question is how young people can gain inclusive & equitable access to land? Over 70% population of sub-Saharan Africa is below 30 years?”
All speakers agreed that the challenge of policy going forward is to compensate those that are marginalized even as we involve private sector in land use Well managed and used, resources in the African continent can transform lives and reduce conflicts
Africa is home to 30% of the world’s natural resource wealth. - 12% of oil reserves in the world - 40% of global gold reserves and - 60% of uncultivated lands are in Africa. These resources ought to be used to transform the lives of African people.