Audace Institut Afrique (AIA), of Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), has won the 2019 Africa Liberty Award for their work to strengthen property rights in their country through the project “Liberating Rural Land’s Potential In Côte d’Ivoire.” The $7,000 prize is generously sponsored by the John Templeton Foundation and Templeton Religion Trust and is part of Atlas Network's suite of Regional Liberty Awards. The two other finalists—IMANI Center for Policy and Education (Ghana) and African Students for Liberty International (Kenya)—were each awarded $1,500. The award was announced at Africa Liberty Forum 2019.
“We wanted to help people through getting them land certificates,” an effort that Mehmet Issa N’DIAYE said was extremely difficult to get the government to support, but that AIA nonetheless achieved. “We want to thank Atlas Network and African Students for Liberty for all of their support, we want to thank everyone for their support,” he concluded.
Before AIA, it was almost impossible to know who owned property, how much they owned, and how that land might be bought and sold. As of 2017, only 4 percent of landholdings were registered In Côte d’Ivoire. This caused conflicts that stemmed from poorly-defined property rights. AIA's project created village maps using advanced global positioning software (GPS) to establish village land registers. The project also led to the creation of a village land committee trained in the use of GPS and physical archiving, the issuance of credible customary rights and lease certificates, and the creation of a smartphone application for citizens to download models of customary ownership certificates and land lease agreements.
“We started with an idea and a simple GPS,” said Gisèle Dutheuil, founding member and director of AIA. “Today our land program is recognized nationally in Côte d'Ivoire and in this prestigious Africa Liberty Forum. This is a wonderful sign of hope for property rights in Africa and a huge encouragement for our small team that builds freedom with passion on a daily basis.”
By emphasizing private ownership rights and creating a replicable and accessible system, AIA is helping landowners in Côte d’Ivoire benefit from their important capital asset. Today this registration program is recognized nationally in Côte d'Ivoire and the government has made official policy to replicate it in every village in the country.