New policy centre to work with universities on land

An African Land Policy Centre that will work with African higher learning institutions and other stakeholders has been unveiled to strengthen and sustain Africa’s capacity to coordinate activities of member states and other actors in the implementation of the African Union Declaration on Land Issues and Challenges.

The new centre was unveiled during the second biennial Conference on Land Policy in Africa held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from 14-17 November.

Although a growing number of African countries show political will to address weak land governance, implementation at country level remains at an early stage, partly owing to the human and institutional capacity required to implement sustainable land policies. One of the reasons for this is the inadequate quality of academic programmes at African universities and institutions of higher learning.

The African Land Policy Centre, or ALPC, is a joint initiative of the African Union Commission, the UN Economic Commission for Africa, and the African Development Bank, created to facilitate the development of land policies that foster economic growth and secure the livelihoods of African people. It was bred from the Land Policy Initiative mandated to spearhead the implementation of the African Union’s Agenda on Land that aims at improving land policy in a regional context.

Under the Network of Excellence on Land Governance in Africa, the ALPC is partnering with five leading African universities and research institutions with proven leadership in education, training and research in land governance.

The selected lead universities to represent each region include Namibia University of Science and Technology, working closely with the University of the Western Cape for Southern Africa; Ardhi University in Tanzania for East Africa; Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana and St Louis Gaston Berger University in Senegal for West Africa; Institut Agronomique et Vétérinaire Hassan II in Morocco for North Africa and University of Yaoundé I in Cameroon for Central Africa.

Dr Joan Kagwanja, coordinator of ALPC, said the centre is expected to provide and facilitate academic education and training at the undergraduate and postgraduate level to ensure that training programmes increase in quantity and quality.

The centre will also define an agenda for research and conduct applied research on land-related issues pertinent to the African Union's agenda on land.

“Through the ALPC, the universities will be able to develop a repository for data, indicators and information, in close cooperation with the ALPC, regional economic councils and governments," said Kagwanja.

“The key thing is to promote knowledge management, dissemination and networking in support of land policy and governance in Africa by enhancing the communities of practice for land policy experts and design appropriate monitoring and evaluation systems and implement pilots to facilitate tracking of land-related initiatives."

According to Hosaena Ghebru, a researcher at the International Food Policy Research Institute, the centre is likely to provide much-needed data on land issues.

“The ALPC is important for capacity building in Africa especially in terms of data on land for policy-makers since most countries in Africa do not have reliable data on land governance," said Ghebru.

The ALPC will work closely with member states to build sex-disaggregated databases to track commitments through the monitoring and evaluation of land governance in Africa beyond the 12 member states currently implementing the Monitoring and Evaluation of Land in Africa project – a pilot study to track progress in the implementation of the 2009 African Union Declaration on Land Issues and Challenges.

This declaration called for the “establishment of an appropriate institutional framework to provide coordination of the follow-up activities and facilitate mutual learning by member states as they develop and review their land policies".

Through the Network of Excellence on Land Governance in Africa or NELGA, the ALPC work will strengthen the capacities of universities to improve training, research and monitoring.

“For better coordination of NELGA in the different regions, a lead university has been selected for each African Union region (so-called 'regional nodes') to implement and coordinate NELGA activities jointly with other NELGA institutions," said United Nations Economic Commission for Africa Regional Land Expert and Economic Affairs Officer Dr Judy Kariuki.

The centre will also be mandated with initiating NELGA activities in the region, training for NELGA students, implementation of the NELGA scholarship programme, advocating and facilitating delivery of training for scholars and policy-makers in the region; and will work with the regional economic councils and other regional and national stakeholders to generate data.