Ruth Butaumocho in ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia
African governments should seize the opportunity to invest in land through strategies and interventions that focus on women and youth. Speaking at the official opening of the Land Policy in Africa conference here on Tuesday, the United Nations Economic for Commission for Africa (Uneca) deputy executive secretary, Mr Abdalla Hamdok, said African nations should use land as a major resource to enhance food production, peace and security while ensuring environmental protection.
“Equitable access and land utilisation and its resources is vital for sustainable economic growth, increased agricultural productivity and the development of a robust agribusiness on the continent. Land forms the basis for agriculture, forestry, mining, industry, tourism and urban development. But to maximise on the benefits of land and its resources, inclusion of land users in decision-making on how land is governed and managed is crucial,” he said adding that access to land by the women and youth would translate into economic empowerment.
A youth and women representative from Kenya, Ms Rachel Mwakali, said women and youth on the continent needed to secure land rights in their respective countries to ensure that they contribute to economic growth. She, however, noted with concern that women and youth were failing to access land because of inheritance and customary practices, which regarded them as outliers with no direct access to claim land. The majority of women in Africa were the most affected and often failed to acquire land in the event of the death of their spouses, she said.
“Why would you put extra effort to develop land that is not and that you won’t be able to pass on to your children? More than 70 percent of Africa’s population is made up of the youth, but sadly only a negligible percent own land,” she said. Running under the theme “The Africa we want: Achieving socio-economic transformation through inclusive and equitable access to land by the youth”, the conference comes at a time when the African Union declared 2017 as the year of youth as agents of socio-economic transformation.Africa is the most youthful continent, with 65 percent of the population said to be between the ages of 15 to 35 years.
During the conference, which ends today, a delegation from Zimbabwe is expected to present a paper on “Guarded Urban Boundaries: Implications for Peri-Urban Land Policy in Zimbabwe”.