Addressing challenges to property registration in Ghana

Fri, 30 Oct 2020 Source: IMANI Centre for Policy and Education

The President is reported in today's Daily Graphic to have assured a group of traditional chiefs, about his resolve to ensure trouble-free acquisition of land in Ghana.

This is so important especially as land experts said at a recent IMANI forum that only 10 % of lands in Accra have been digitised. None of the rest of Ghana has been attempted.

Here are 17 salient points made by the panel of experts on the land question during the IMANI forum on land.

1. A robust land administration system provides opportunities to unlock the productive capacity of land. In countries where secured land title is guaranteed, land serves as collateral for small and medium businesses to access finance, sell property and support broader community development goals.

2. The land market in Ghana is characterized by land title insecurity, encroachment of public lands, multiple sale of residential lands, high property registration cost, and general land market indiscipline. These challenges in the land market are associated with factors that delay unlocking the productive capacity of land.

3. Digitization of the land administration, institutional synergies, effective parcel demarcation, transactional cost, and access to clear information on property ownership and security of title remain a constraint in land administration in Ghana.

4. Ghana is ranked 14th in Africa on the Registering Property Index, behind countries like Rwanda and Mauritius.

5. The drawbacks in land administration in Ghana, if unresolved, will continue to affect the ease of doing business and culminate in a weak and uncoordinated land administration system which may worsen the land market indiscipline.

6. The surest way to creating an efficient and transparent land market is through enhanced access to information, decentralized formal property registration system and building the relevant infrastructure to record and protect land information.

7. To realize innovation in Ghana’s Land Administration System, there must be continuous communication between land sector agencies and the citizenry.

8. State agencies must develop campaigns to educate citizens about the new administration process and sensitize them about the relevance of a title or lease certificate.

9. Decentralize land administration along the current decentralization system: Strengthen institutional capacity of formal land agencies: Build the right infrastructure and digitize land records:

10. “People collude with the local government officials and the Lands Commission to sell and register land without my notice as the chief of the area. There are several instances I have made checks at the Lands Commission and found people endorsing indenture and other documents without permission from me”- Traditional Land Owners

11. “If government does not intervene in the work of the Lands Commission, they will create challenges over land management in Ghana because of their inability to protect the true owners of land”-

12. “When you are able to go through all the contestations and win title over the land, you have to pass the cost of the process of registering the property to the final consumer. The real estate businesses face worse crisis because sometimes the litigations may go beyond the debt service period.”- Real Estate Company.

13. “In most cases, you have to borrow to continue the project. This is when you win the case but if you lose, you will be paying a loan you didn’t even use for the intended purpose”- Private land owner.

14. “One of the challenges we face in registering property is the inability of the Lands Commission to provide information on the true owners of the land. In some instances, you would have negotiated and purchased materials to begin construction of a project, and you would have to contest ownership of the land in court because the information on ownership you received earlier has changed. This affects predictability of project completion and projection of cashflow. If you are using debt to finance the project, you will be running into losses before the project even starts”- Real Estate Developers

15. “Lack of information is major challenge in the process of registering property in Ghana. Most land owners do not know the process of registering property. I know people who have tried registering their lands and it has taken them more than 5years and even in worse cases more than 15years. The main problem is people don’t know the registration process.”- Residential Land Owner... The combined effects of the inefficiencies in the land market results in delays in identifying true owners of land, slow down the process of unlocking value of land and renders land an inefficient asset to support businesses and families to access capital and debt.

16. The deployment of the GELIS has delayed because there are several challenges with the existing data with the Lands Commission. Most of the data are incomplete, poorly managed and overlaps with proper maps.”- Lands Commission, Accra

17. “We have invested in technology since 2003 to automate land management activities in Ghana. Nonetheless, the expected digitization of land records has not been achieved because the fundamental issues to land rights and ownership has not been resolved”- Expert

Columnist: IMANI Centre for Policy and Education