Promises and Realities of Land Formalization in Africa – A Data Story

November 2023
Dr. Marie Gagné (Land Portal)

This Land Portal Data Story, prepared within the Netherlands-funded Land-at-Scale Programme, provides a visual overview of land formalization efforts in Africa, illustrating how land data can be used to tell stories about key land governance trends and issues. It can be downloaded as a PDF file but is best viewed in its interactive online format. After introducing land reform and land formalization efforts in Africa in general, the author focuses on evidence from Ethiopia, where a land formalization model has been used that has been much-praised globally. The Data Story summarises findings from different attempts to quantify the impacts of land formalization on tenure security, as well as from the PRINDEX survey data of people’s perceptions of their own tenure security, noting that the 26% of Ethiopians who still perceive their tenure to be insecure is not very different from the proportion of people sharing that perception in countries that have not undergone land formalization. A key observation is that land formalization allows state governance institutions to permeate to local levels that previously had greater autonomy to govern their land under customary arrangements. Insecurities from this state penetration may therefore offset increased security of tenure from formalization of land ownership rights. However, the author highlights increasing tenure security for women through joint certification of land has emerged from several qualitative studies cited in the Data Story.