Addis Ababa — A two-day Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) land dialogue opened in Addis Ababa Wednesday with Ethiopia's State Minister for Natural Resources, Kaba Urgessa, urging IGAD member States to use the platform to share experiences and challenges related to effective land administration.
In opening remarks to the meeting, a first of its kind organized by a regional community to discuss the implementation of the African Union Declaration on Land, especially land governance and administration, Mr. Urgessa said land is one critical resource on which Africa's socio-economic development is anchored and therefore should be properly managed.
"This regional dialogue is one of the successful achievements of IGAD, member States and development partners in establishing a regional dialogue platform which is one of the calls of the AU Declaration on Land," he said.
"This is the start, we have to continue strengthening the regional dialogue platform to share our best practices and challenges in the land sector, in particular land harmonizing and integration agenda in the IGAD region," said Mr. Urgessa.
The theme of the dialogue is; 'Good governance in land administration in IGAD region'.
For his part, ECA's Capacity Development Division Director, Stephen Karingi, urged Africa to optimally leverage its land resources for its people.
Mr. Karingi said land plays a crucial role in Africa's socio economic development hence the need for the continent to optimally use the resource.
"We are all aware that many of our countries continue to face challenges, which are surmountable, including of poverty, food and nutrition insecurity and natural and environmental degradation; with serious consequences for our people, especially the most vulnerable," said he said.
Mr. Karingi said one of the root causes was the inefficient and non-inclusive use of the land resources, adding such dialogues would help member States address these challenges.
The ECA Director said the challenges are compounded by the reality that many land administration systems are not informed by rigorous research.
"The result is a system with poor governance and accountability, and as a consequence they do not guarantee security of tenure for the majority of the population including women and vulnerable groups," said Mr. Karingi, adding this should not be the case for a continent with nearly 60 percent of the world's arable uncultivated land.
"Clearly, Africa is yet to optimally leverage its land resources for its people. This is why land governance and administration are important," he said, adding it is imperative for member States to develop and put in place efficient land administration systems with high quality of service.
For his part, Mohamed Moussa, Director of Agriculture and Environment Division at IGAD, said given the importance of land to economic and social development and to ensuring peace and security, the majority of African governments have embarked on land policy and institutional reforms to address land issues in the context of national development.
"The key issues that need to be addressed in this context are securing land rights to improve livelihoods and facilitate economic development; the centrality of urban land delivery and urban land development; natural resource access and sustaining common property resources; property rights and environmental sustainability; equitable land distribution and restoring wasted and alienated land; land and gender issues; and land and conflict," he told participants.
Peter Sidler, from the Embassy of Switzerland in Ethiopia's Swiss Cooperation Office, said Switzerland collaborates with the African Land Policy Centre in supporting African countries and Regional Economic Communities in integrating both, the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security, known as the VGGT, and the AU Framework and Guidelines for Land Policy in Africa into national legislation.
"This regional dialogue platform is a very important step in this regard. On the one hand, the African Union Declaration on Land issues and Challenges requests the RECs together with ECA, the AfDB, and the AUC to establish appropriate institutional frameworks to provide coordination of activities and facilitate mutual learning by member States and convene periodic regional platforms," said Mr. Sidler.
The workshop is one of the pre-events leading to the second biennial Conference on Land Policy in Africa which will begins next week from 14 to 17 November here in Addis Ababa.