Revisiting the World Bank’s Land Law Reform Agenda in Africa: The Promise and Perils of Customary Practices

Citation:

Collins, Andrea, and Matthew I. Mitchell. 2018. “Revisiting the World Bank’s Land Law Reform Agenda in Africa: The Promise and Perils of Customary Practices.” Journal of Agrarian Change 18 (1): 112–31.

Authors: Andrea Collins, Matthew I. Mitchell

Abstract:

This paper revisits the World Bank's land law reform agenda in Africa by focusing on two central issues: (1) land law reform as a tool for resolving land conflicts, and (2) the role of land law reform in addressing gender inequalities. While the Bank's recent land report provides insights for improving land governance in Africa, it fails to acknowledge the exploitative and contentious politics that often characterize customary land tenure systems, and the local power dynamics that undermine the ability of marginalized groups to secure land rights. Using insights from recent fieldwork, the paper analyses the links between land law reform and conflict in Ghana, and the gendered dynamics of reforming land governance in Tanzania. These “crucial cases” illustrate how land law reform can provoke conflicts over land and threaten the rights of vulnerable populations (e.g. migrants and women) when customary practices are uncritically endorsed as a means of improving land governance. As such, the paper concludes with a series of recommendations on how to navigate the promise and perils of customary practices in the governance of land.

Keywords: africa, customary practices, Ghana, land law reform, tanzania, World Bank

Topics: Conflict Prevention, Displacement & Migration, Gender, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, Conflict, Governance, International Financial Institutions, International Organizations, Rights, Land Rights, Property Rights Regions: Africa, East Africa, West Africa Countries: Ghana, Tanzania

Year: 2018

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