Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, November 14, 2017 (ECA) -The Second Conference on Land Policy in Africa opened in Addis Ababa Tuesday with a call for the continent to properly manage its land resources for the benefit of its current and future generations.
In opening remarks to the conference, ECA Deputy Executive Secretary and Chief Economist, Mr. Abdalla Hamdok, said there was no doubt that good land governance was key to Africa's transformation and central to livelihoods and sustainable development.
"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 Mr. Hamdok.
He said equitable access and utilization of land and its resources was vital for sustainable economic growth, increased agricultural productivity and the development of a robust agribusiness on the continent.
Mr. Hamdok said the theme of the conference; "The Africa We Want: Achieving socioeconomic transformation through inclusive and equitable access to land by the youth", is appropriate as it addresses an important concern related to the realization of the African Union's Agenda 2063.
"Africa is in a hopeful state not only because of its youthfulness but also due to the widespread discovery of land based resources," highlighted Mr. Hamdok.
He explained that Africa is home to abundant natural resources accounting for at least 30 percent of the world's natural resource wealth; 12 percent of oil reserves, 40 percent of global gold reserves, 60 percent of uncultivated land and 70 percent of coltan deposits, from which electronic microchips are made.
"The 420 million young people aged between 15-35 years can be gainfully involved in the exploitation of these resources, especially through agriculture, manufacturing and industrial sectors", said Mr. Hamdok.
For his part, Ethiopia's Agriculture and Natural Resources Minister, Eyasu Abraha Alle, said land is one of the major resources that Africa has in abundance and should be properly managed and used for the benefit of current and future generations.
"As agriculture is the mainstay of the majority of the population of Africa, its future development is heavily dependent on designing and implementation of appropriate land policy, land use plans and integrated natural resource management systems," he said.
Mr. Alle said effective land policy with appropriate implementation mechanisms promotes secure, equitable access to land by an array of beneficiaries, including the youth, women and others and in the process stimulating economic development.
He said the inappropriate and misuse of land resources have aggravated environmental degradation leading to poverty and food insecurity.
"We need to join hands to overcome our land degradation and policy challenges in a smart way through the implementation of the AU declaration on land and other regional frameworks and land tools," Mr. Alle said.
African Development Bank's Director General in Eastern Africa, Gabriel Negatu, said without proper governance of natural resources, land included, it would be difficult to achieve sustainable and equitable growth on the continent.
"The crafting of sustainable and equitable land policy appeals to several interrelated goals, including natural resource management governance, conflict management, sustainable economic growth, poverty alleviation and good environmental management," he said.
Speaking on behalf of youth and women, Ms. Rachael Mwikali said young women and men on the continent continue to have limited access to land making it difficult for them to engage in viable and sustainable agricultural or income generating ventures.
"Too often young people's voices are not heard during the policy process and implementation and so their complex and multifaceted needs are not addressed," she said.
The conference started in the morning with participants discussing various topics including land planning and governance, land certification systems, technology application for agriculture, conflict management, access to land for women and youth and environment management.
The ongoing four-day conference, which was organized by the ECA, AUC and the AfDB under the coordination of the African Land Policy Centre (ALPC), is being attended by government officials, academia, representatives of Regional Economic Communities, African centers of excellence, civil society and private sector associations.