Panel will examine the shifting national policies pertaining to the rights of access to land in African countries with a focus on their impact on key constituents and on identifying the power and vested interests underlying these changes.
Key to understanding the relationship between urban and rural Africa are national policies pertaining to rights of access to land. Growing conflict and pressures from a plethora of competing internal and external interests in land are leading to the generation of new policies and legislation to set the terms and conditions for accessing and using land. Parameters are being proscribed for a host of key players including foreign and domestic investors, village and non-village rural residents, urban and non-urban cultivators and pastoralists. One particular issue is the continued erosion of customary rights to village land and with it the power of local authorities to influence land access and usage. In July 2016, the Malawian Parliament passed several controversial new land bills which alter the nature of how customary land is to be administered and held. In August 2016, Tanzania released the first draft of a new national land policy. Among its recommendations are changes to the current two-tier system of titling distinguishing between leasehold properties, typically in urban areas, and village properties, which are reserved for village residents. They also propose to circumvent the power of village governments over land issues by organizing a central government-appointed commission for village lands to oversee rural land. The panel will not be limited to analysis of these changes in Malawi and Tanzania but encourages submissions from scholars working in other African contexts. In sum, we seek to identify the power and vested interests shifting the terrain of national land polices in Africa.