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On the 19th of February 2018, the Southern Africa node of the Network of Excellence on Land Governance (NELGA) was successfully launched, at an event held at the Namibian University of Science and Technology (NUST) in Namibia. The launch was followed by a 3-day Master Class – from 20 to 22 February 2018 – on Land Governance and Corruption, attended by academics, researchers and civil society organizations from Southern Africa.

Professor Jose Frantz from the University of the Western Cape (third from right on the front row) with some of the attendees of NELGA Southern Africa node launch.

NELGA was established by the African Land Policy Centre (ALPC) formerly known as Land Policy Initiative (LPI), in partnership with Germany, the World Bank and other partners, with the aim to improve land policy in Africa, which has long been characterized by weak land governance and insecure land rights. NELGA aims to support and strengthen capacity for land governance in Africa through the following:

  1. Improving land-related curricula in graduate and post-graduate training courses in quantity and quality.
  2. Promoting knowledge management, dissemination and networking in support of land policy and governance in Africa by enhancing the community of practice for land policy experts.
  3. Designing appropriate monitoring and evaluation systems; and implement pilots to facilitate tracking of land related initiatives.
  4. Providing and facilitate academic education and training for African land professional and practitioners.
  5. Defining an agenda for research and conduct applied research on land related issues pertinent to the AU agenda on land.
  6. Developing a repository for data, indicators and information, in close cooperation with the LPI, RECs and governments.

Lead universities selected in different AU regions coordinate and implement the above activities with NELGA institutions, which are leading African universities and research institutions with proven leadership in education, training and research on land governance. The North Africa regional node is hosted by the Institut Agronomique et Vétérinaire Hassan II in Morocco, while the West Africa region is coordinated by Ardhi University in Tanzania.  The Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Ghana and the University Yaoundé I in Cameroon host the East Africa and Central Africa nodes respectively.  The Namibian University of Science and Technology, where the launch was held, will act as the Secretariat for the Southern region. It will work in partnership with universities and research institutions in Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Unveiling of the building at Namibian University of Science and Technology to be used for the NELGA Southern Africa node activities.

In South Africa, NUST works with the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS) in the University of the Western Cape. In line with NELGA objective of enhancing training opportunities and curricula on land governance in Africa, PLAAS in partnership with other African universities, will be offering an accredited short course on Land Governance in Africa. The course will be tailored to policy-makers and practitioners who have responsibilities and expertise in this broad field but require capacity building on the social, economic and political dimensions of land governance. The course is developed to react to the realization that a growing number of countries show political will on implementing sustainable land policies but lacked human and institutional capacity required to implement sustainable land policies, due to lack of quality academic programmes the universities and research institutions in Africa.

The 3-day Master Class, where a course on land governance and corruption (open source available at was offered after the launch of the NELGA Southern node at NUST, emphasized the importance of good land governance. “Good governance of land and institutional arrangements are a prerequisite for sustainable development, agricultural development and food security” Ase Christensen, one of the master class facilitators.

PLAAS researcher, Nkanyiso Gumede (first from left) during the Master Class on land governance and corruption at Namibian University of Science and Technology.

Africa is still characterized by weak land governance and insecure land rights, which is a major impediment to development. With majority of Africans depending on land for their livelihoods, it is important that land governance is robust and people’s land rights are protected. It is difficult to do so if corruption is predominant on land governance.  From the experiences shared by the participants it was clear that many countries in Southern Africa still grapple with corruption in land governance.  The class outlined the impact of corruption on land governance. It has a significant societal cost as it reduces people’s access to land and damages their livelihoods in both urban and rural areas. As stated in the Voluntary Guidelines “many tenure problems arise because of weak governance and attempts to address tenure problems are affected by the quality of governance. Weak governance adversely affects social stability, sustainable use of the environment, investment and economic growth”.  It is also difficult to combat land corruption when law does not recognize customary land rights and other informal land rights.

Areas of land corruption include administrative processes such as demarcation and titling of land.  It also includes identification of land according to states categories. “When land is used occasionally for activities that supports the livelihood of the of local communities, such as collecting firewood, is officially often considered ‘unused’. The category unused is often employed to facilitate elite capture for personal gain” Geofrey Shakwa, one of the course facilitators. Planning and zoning, land valuation, land sales and leasing are some of the areas of land corruption.  Land corruption thrives when legislations governing land administration are unclear and complex, the institutions are weak, there is a capacity challenge on staff, lack of transparency, limited public participation and lack of effective oversight.

PLAAS researcher, Nkanyiso Gumede, with the Southern Africa node Project Coordinator, Mr Theodor Muduva, during the Master Class on land governance and corruption at Namibian University of Science and Technology.

Good land governance entails governance of land, which is participatory, consensus oriented, transparent, responsive, equitable and inclusive, effective and efficient, and follows the rule of law. Good land governance must also be gender sensitive as “women are often faced with inequalities in accessing land in the majority of African countries” Sam Mwando, one of the Master Class facilitators. To reduce corruption and ensure effective and efficient land governance, countries need to have comprehensive and clear land administration legislations, increased accountability, have strong codes of conduct and ethics that apply to all land administrators, increased transparency and meaningful inclusion of local communities in decision making processes surrounding the land deals. In Addition, Dr Laura Nkula-Wenz, presenting on tactics and strategies for addressing corruption, suggested that it is important for land administrators to be ethical, responsible and professional in their daily practice, as this would ensure that good land governance is ensured for the benefit of people as whole.

The Master Class was concluded with a trip to informal settlements on the outskirts of Windhoek. The Namibian University of Science and Technology (NUST) together with the Namibia Housing Action Group (NHAG) have partnered with the Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia to provide housing for the informal settlement dwellers, who have grouped themselves as savings groups to build houses for themselves. NUST and NHAG offer technical support and also solicit funds for the construction of housing units for the informal settlement dwellers. This is the kind of partnership that is required in order to ensure development in Africa and the world at large.

NoteThe course material is open access but since some texts used have copy right on them, there is a password needed to access the full materials. People interested to know more about the course and adapting it for their context should email;




Christensen Ase, 2017. Presentation on social and economic importance of land. Land Governance and Corruption Master Class. Namibian University of Science and Technology, Windhoek, Namibia.

Mwando Sam, 2017. Presentation on tenure typologies. Land Governance and Corruption Master Class. Namibian University of Science and Technology, Windhoek, Namibia

Nkula-Wenz, Laura, 2017. Presentation on tactics and strategies for addressing corruption. Land Governance and Corruption Master Class. Namibian University of Science and Technology, Windhoek, Namibia.

Notting Marc, 2017. Introduction to NELGAStrengthening Advisory Capacities for Land Governance in Africa (SLGA) Programme. NELGA pamphlet. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Shakwa Geofrey, 2017. Presentation on intricacies of corruption risks and mitigation measures in land administration. Land Governance and Corruption Master Class. Namibian University of Science and Technology, Windhoek, Namibia.