By Gareth Benest and Courtney Paisley
Blockchain land registries, community land committees and refuges for landless women are among the latest approaches to tackling land corruption proposed by young social entrepreneurs from Africa.
Young populations in sub-Saharan Africa are rising dramatically, yet young people are three times as likely to be unemployed than adults. There are simply not enough jobs to meet the demand of the coming generation. One response has been a greater emphasis on young people creating their own business opportunities. But how can business be created when young people struggle to access land?
African youth must have access to land — for agriculture, industry, offices and housing — if entrepreneurial activities are to provide sustainable livelihoods.
The role of land corruption
Land corruption is the abuse of entrusted power for private gain within land administration and management. Young people in Africa are disproportionately affected by land corruption, leading ever-greater numbers to push for urgent action.
The continued presence of land corruption undermines the entrepreneurship of youth and restricts access to employment for all but the most privileged. For those living in rural areas, land corruption restricts opportunities for new and innovative ventures to take shape; weakening local economies and encouraging migration to already overcrowded urban centres where competition for jobs is even greater.
Searching for innovative responses
Transparency International believes that young people in Africa can — and will — devise effective new responses to land corruption.
Our programmes regularly engage with the next generation of social entrepreneurs — those busy devising agile solutions to society’s biggest issues — to provide young changemakers with the support they need to realise their ideas.
Following a highly successful innovation workshop in 2016, our search for fresh ideas and new strategies began again in October 2018.
Within a few weeks of the call going out, a staggering 461 proposals were submitted by young people from across the continent (see graph); underlining the importance and urgency of land corruption as an issue for African youth.
A wide range of land corruption issues were addressed by the proposals received, including: land grabbing, land conflicts, inequality between poor communities and rich investors, inheritance rights, and the economic, social and cultural impact on young people. Proposed responses included awareness-raising, training, advocacy, campaigning, and technical initiatives; to encourage citizens to obtain land titles, refrain from engaging in corrupt practices, and address gender inequalities in land use, access and ownership brought about by customary practices.
Developing new approaches
Nine proposals were selected for their relevance and applicability, creativity and innovation, emphasis on community engagement and collaborative ethos.
The proposal authors — from Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda — were invited to attend a week-long workshop in Lagos hosted by Transparency International’s local chapter: Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC).
Together with their peers and a group of experts from Transparency International, eight* young social entrepreneurs worked intensively, over several days, to develop and refine their proposals for addressing land corruption in their countries and communities.
Sikem Brice from Cameroon proposed a community-driven approach to tackling land corruption by establishing a network of Local Land Surveillance Committees made-up of local youth, women, traditional leaders and municipal officers. These committees would assume responsibility for facilitating bribery-free land certificates for fellow community members; while ensuring transparency and accountability in land sales (for example, sales to foreign investors), raising awareness of land issues at the grassroots and helping to resolve disputes as they arise. Read the full proposal.
Moses Nkesiga advanced a plan to provide free legal assistance to those affected by land corruption in Uganda, through centres spearheaded by young, newly-qualified lawyers. This nation-wide network of legal centres would seek to serve the country’s poorest and most marginalised populations that are most affected by land corruption. Staffed by the next generation of lawyers and paralegals, providing pro-bono legal advice and advocacy, the centres would also undertake awareness-raising activities to increase the resilience of communities across the country. Read the full proposal.
Daniel Turikumwe shared his plans to harness the power of theatre and the nation-wide reach of radio to raise awareness of land corruption among communities across Rwanda. Live theatrical performances and serialised radio plays would share stories of land corruption, while informing citizens of relevant laws, corruption reporting mechanisms (including a ‘hotline’) and advice on accessing justice for those affected. Read the full proposal.
Joan Nandiri envisioned a network of 12 centres in Kakamega County, in western Kenya, for widowed women who are affected by land corruption, in particular those who lose their land through customary practices that discriminate against widows. Through the centres, women from across the county would be able to report instances of land corruption, gain access to pro-bono legal services, join awareness-raising programmes, and find a ‘safe haven’ for those most at risk. Read the full proposal.
Adewumi Mojisola pitched an innovative approach to tackling the disproportionate impact of land corruption on women in Nigeria, through the introduction of Interactive Community Panels. Consisting of community members, women’s leaders, religious representatives and lawyers, the panels are informed about issues relating to women’s rights and work to enhance women’s income generation through land-related activities. The panels work with women on income generating activities, while informing and enabling them to improve their livelihoods and fight for equal land rights. Read the full proposal.
Babafemi Adewumi from Nigeria proposed building an online land registry, capable of curbing rampant land corruption, through the use of blockchain technology. Adewumi described his vision for an interactive platform where buyers and sellers of agricultural land could access accurate information on land parcels, verified by the same system underpinning crypto currencies such as BitCoin. In addition to benefiting individual buyers and sellers, government agencies would have reliable data to inform decisions around community development projects. Read the full proposal.
Ily Abraham from Burkina Faso proposed a project for resolving land conflicts, in the provinces of Boulgou and Kouritenga, caused and exacerbated by corruption. In addition to engaging various stakeholders through in-depth conflict resolution processes, Abraham’s plan involves producing resources for community members covering land corruption issues, conflict mediation and reconciliation techniques. Read the full proposal in English or French.
Osei Bonsu imagined the creation of a digital land registry — replacing the paper-based system in Ghana — as an answer to land corruption. Developed with his colleague Akwasi Akwaboah, the approach to land management is intended to ensure information within the registry is readily available, reliable and safe from tampering. Bonsu and Akwaboah believe a digital land registry will help eliminate corrupt practices and contribute towards curbing land grabbing and conflicts. Read the full proposal.
Renata George proposed a multi-faceted approach to tackling land corruption in Tanzania with a specific focus on empowering young people. Proposed activities include training young ‘integrity ambassadors’, establishing land corruption ‘awareness clubs’, and convening youth dialogues; to equip young Tanzanians with the skills, knowledge and mechanisms needed to bring transparency and accountability into land governance processes. Read the full proposal.
Rigorously testing innovations
In the closing stages of the development process, the young social entrepreneurs had their ideas rigorously tested by an audience of campaigners, activists, and social innovators from across Nigeria. Over the course of a day-long event, each entrepreneur presented their innovation (without visual aides or notes!) before facing an in-depth Q&A session from the highly knowledgeable and experienced audience.
With their strategies interrogated and founding assumptions rigorously tested, the eight young social entrepreneurs set about adapting and refining their final proposals. Links to download each proposal can be found above.
These inspiring young innovators have developed their ideas and now they need contacts, partners and support. We would like to encourage anyone interested in implementing their concepts to reach out to the authors — see contact details above — and consider collaborating with them to bring their ideas to life.
Next generation of social entrepreneurs
Transparency International is proud to have identified and engaged with some of Africa’s most exciting young social entrepreneurs as part of our work to stop land corruption.
Ily Sombé Sylvain Abraham is an agricultural engineer specialising in plant breeding, rural development, and research. Previously stationed at the Institute of Environment and Agriculture Research, he currently works at the Ministry of Agriculture in Burkina Faso.
Babafemi Adewumi is a graduate of agricultural engineering with a passion for leveraging technology to address land corruption across Africa. He is team leader for the AgriTech Initiative at Wennovation Hub, helping a range of businesses and startups.
Osei Bonsu is a Zonal Project Officer for an interfaith initiative implemented by the Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII) in the Ashanti Region. Osei previously worked for five years as a Project Coordinator for SWEDEC (Swedish EOD and Demining Centre) in Ghana.
Sikem Brice is a qualified secondary school teacher and holds a B.Sc in geology. Sikem is a passionate educator and determined activist. He is determined to address a wide range of social justice issues and bring positive change to marginalised communities.
Renata George Chaulah is a youth activist and Treasurer of Junior Chamber International in Tanzania. She is a certified public-private partnership professional and a Masters student in Procurement and Supply Chain Management at Mzumbe University.
Mojisola Adewumi is the founder of 21st Century Entrepreneur Initiatives Nigeria. Mojisola’s work provides vocational training to rural women — helping them to become financially independent — and lands rights awareness-raising programmes.
Joan Elizabeth Nandiri is a lawyer, social entrepreneur and Global Peace Ambassador for Global Peace Chain. Joan is co-founder of Amani, at community organisation working with vulnerable women in Western Kenya on issues including widow disinheritance.
Moses Nkesiga trained as a lawyer following a personal experience of land corruption as a child. Moses is founder and Team Leader of Strategic Response International, a network of young lawyers working for social justice across Uganda.
Daniel Turikumwe is an aspiring social business leader, dedicated to improving the lives of Rwandan farmers. Daniel is currently the Global Internal Auditor at One Acre Fund where he has conducted several audits in Rwanda, Burundi, Zambia, Malawi and Uganda.
Details for a further 73 proposals received can be accessed here.
Anti-Corruption Kit: 15 ideas for young activists
Women, Land and Corruption. Resources for Practitioners and Policy-Makers
Corruption in the Land Sector: Working Paper
Investigating Land and Corruption in Africa — A Training Manual for Journalists
Gender-responsive work on land and corruption: a practical guide
Gareth Benest is a communications and participatory media consultant working with the Land and Corruption in Sub-Saharan Africa Programme at Transparency International.
Courtney Paisley is a specialist in program development and coordination in the areas of youth engagement and rural development.
* Renata George Chaulah from Tanzania was unable to travel to Nigeria to attend the event, due to visa complications. She received remote support from Transparency International to submit her final proposal.