Unified policies on access to land for investment are key

Jimmy Ochom

What you need to know:

The should be able to foster fair competition, since nations would often employ innovation to build up business partnerships that support efficient use of land and maximum output.

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA) must promote the continent’s intra-Africa access to land while cushioning citizens from illegal and irregular land acquisition by multinationals.

In September 2023, during an annual State of the EAC address, the Intra-EAC trade was reported to have grown by 11.2 percent to $10.9 billion in 2022 from $9.8 billion in 2021.

The increase was attributed to the strong collaboration between the member countries in harmonising the standards and removal of some of the non-tariff barriers. As the EAC continues to register such positive developments, it’s critical to look at theAfCFTA in providing economic transformation in Africa.

Africa’s economy is gradually changing as a result of the AfCTA. A free trade area is a zone where nations agree to cooperate economically via the implementation of trade agreements between member nations of the region. The AfCFTA’s only objective is to promote free trade among its member nations by removing trade obstacles such tariffs and restrictions on land investments.

The deal has the power to significantly alter the economic landscape of the continent. While the need to remove obstacles has been emphasised, insufficient attention has been paid to the immense potential in creating shared policy frameworks, such as with respect to access to land for investment, which may be a significant engine for the continent’s economic development.

Although land is the foundation of many economic activities, investment and growth are continually hampered by complicated land tenure regimes, unclear property rights, and overlapping claims.

Rich countries from across the globe invest in land in Africa; as a result, arrangements that provide this potential need to be investigated in order to support fast economic development.

Although African governments have put in place fiscal policies that make it quick and easy for investors to acquire big tracts of land, the laws sometimes seem to be more fair to foreign investors than to investors from the continent. A provision on uniform investment land access tariff would envision a system in which nationals of all African nations might invest easily in other African nations. If implemented, a systematised tariff strategy for entry to land investment into the AfCFTA will accelerate Africa’s economic transition.

Most rural economies in Africa entirely depend on access and maximum utilization of land to generate income. However, increase in demand for this finite resource by multinationals and investors from rich nations has pushed the prices way above the reach of ordinary citizens. This has seen many citizens who cannot afford to buy or rent arable land to sustain life and livelihood migrate to cities to look for other opportunities.

An initiative like the AfCFTA can activate rural economies by implementing unified favorable fiscal policies that allow African Citizens from any part of the continent to easily access land for responsible investments. Such policies must prioritize access to land for agriculture as this would help address the current hunger crisis and poverty.

The AfCFTA should be able to foster fair competition, since nations would often employ innovation to build up business partnerships that support efficient use of land and maximum output.

Under such a framework, effective utilisation of African resources, such as land, entails maximising profits across the continent.

Mr Jimmy Ochom – Land Rights Coordinator- Oxfam in Uganda