Land rights in Africa are about people, not paperwork

March 2021
Prindex (Ibrahima Ka and Cynthia Burning)

Explores what the Prindex 2020 dataset tells us about land rights in sub-Saharan Africa. One in four people in Africa live with the fear of being evicted day-to-day: one of the highest rates in the world. Across 34 countries surveyed in sub-Saharan Africa, a staggering 121 million people said they felt insecure. Compared to other regions of the world, people in sub-Saharan Africa place far less weight on legal documentation when considering how secure they feel in their rights. Many people without any documents feel very secure because the customary systems in place are known and trusted by community members. Renters are almost always more insecure than owners. Women were many times more likely than men to feel insecure. This gender gap is greater than in most other regions of the world. Even women who have legally mandated rights to property after divorce or the death of a husband may be prevented from exercising their rights due to social norms and family pressure. Prindex data show that across the continent every country is different and is struggling with land tenure insecurity in different ways. The first step to improving people’s security is to better understand the drivers of insecurity in each place and among each group, especially the most vulnerable.