March 8, 2019 Print

Thanks to the work of Audace Institut Afrique (AIA), land ownership is no longer a hazy concept in Côte d’Ivoire. In 2016 AIA launched “Land Governance in Ivorian Villages”, a project dedicated to consolidating and publishing records of property ownership in villages throughout Côte d’Ivoire. Because of this work, new legislation requires the creation of similar publications of records in every village throughout the country.

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% of all rural land in Côte d’Ivoire was legally registered. The other 96% was possessed and exchanged through verbal agreements or quasi-binding “contracts” written on slips of paper or other medians. Free exchange is impossible without the existence of clearly defined property rights, so this system was a significant roadblock to economic development in Côte d’Ivoire. AIA decided to take this problem head-on through extensive research and 21st-century technological breakthroughs.

Drone shot of one of the original villages to concretize property rights thanks to AIA project “Land Governance in Ivorian Villages."​

Land Governance in Ivorian Villages was launched to map out these ethereal ownerships through exploration in various villages. These findings were written down and published online as a permanent record.

Atlas Network has previously written on the project and how local knowledge and GPS technology worked together to clarify rights that had been murky at best for so long.

“After delving into the lineages of the families living in each village and reconstructing their social and legal landscapes, AIA uses GPS and other resources to demarcate boundaries of different plots of land including both geographical and sociological data. These registries are then published digitally and physically, providing accessibility to those lacking access to electricity. The information contained in the registries AIA has created helps secure contracts and is referenced frequently during leasing and sales of land.”

Now, it’s easier for market forces to operate in these villages. When it’s clear which people own which land—the cultivation, purchase, and sale of property becomes a consistent part of life for the community.

AIA conducted a survey of Côte d’Ivoire citizens and found that 99% of survey respondents believed that property rights are important to individual liberty. The survey results, along with the prior success of its project make a compelling case to government leaders that explicit records of land ownership should be made a priority.

King of the North Ivorian Villages Lauds AIA and its work on property rights.​

Now, Côte d’Ivoire’s government is making this project a requirement for all villages in the country. New legislation requires a specific land registration procedure that is now in practice across the country; guaranteeing commerce and expanded protection of property rights.

AIA is a perfect example of local knowledge being used to apply classical liberal solutions to solve local problems. Individuals on the ground are far better equipped to advocate for viable solutions, both to community members and government officials. Now that these registries are becoming available across the country, Côte d’Ivoire is primed for economic investment, while eliminating a major roadblock to opportunity for its citizenry.