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Interpreting land markets in Africa

Special Issue Land Markets in Africa, Guest edited by Jean-Philippe Colin and Philip Woodhouse

Land is a pressing and important topic in social sciences, development and African studies. Questions about land markets are central to development policy, though have received little attention. Empirical studies remain sparse and most published work tends to concentrate on market development rather than exploring the social relationships embodied in land markets, and their political consequences. This Special Issue, comprising an extensive introduction by the guest editors and a further six papers covering studies on Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, Zimbabwe and Zambia, seeks to address these gaps.  Some themes and questions addressed include the role of the state as perceived as being central to the reform of customary land rights. Whilst there is a trend towards private property, around ninety percent of land in Africa is still considered to be under customary land tenure. Thus the majority of transactions are ‘informal’, the meaning of transactions is disputed, and there is widespread insecurity over the transferred land rights. Another important discourse relates to the perceived fairness or justice of land access, and questions of autochthony and the linkage of land rights to ethnicity.

The broader significance of the papers is to contribute to a more critical analysis of institutional change. The papers mark a step forward in African land policy debates that largely remain polarized between those seeking poverty reduction through promoting land markets, and opponents who seek to protect the poor from losing their land. Finally, the papers suggest that an understanding of actually-existing land markets is central to the analysis of the roots of conflict and insecurity in Africa today.

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Mise en ligne : 27 novembre 2012 | Mise à jour : 19 décembre 2012 | Auteur : Jean-Philippe Colin