Land law in Ghana

Ghana is overhauling its land legislation to meet the challenges posed by illegal mining, environmental degradation and tenure risk


  • James Kavanagh

11 October 2019

Many Commonwealth nations in Africa are in the throes of radical governance and legislative change, shaking off the last vestiges of British colonial legislation, and adopting new land administration and culturally relevant ownership laws.

Ghana is one of these, and has been developing a new land law bill for some years. A high-level delegation visited London to discuss these changes and see how UK expertise could help. Ghana is now establishing protocols for land acquisition, staff training and the relationship between the private and public sectors.

RICS has a strong, long-term relationship with the Commonwealth, Ghana, and the Ghanaian Institution of Surveyors (GhIS). Indeed, RICS was instrumental in helping to found professional surveying institutions in the then British Commonwealth during decolonisation in the 1950s and 60s. Modelled on RICS, GhIS presently has some 4,000 members covering the three main sectors of land, property and construction.

Accredited professional training such as the land economics courses at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology are based on the University of Cambridge curriculum, and GhIS also runs an APC to ensure its members are properly qualified. All professional surveyors in Ghana must also have a government licence, for which GhIS membership is mandatory. RICS has a direct entry agreement with the organisation, and there are more than 100 joint members as well as a few UK expats.

Most of the challenges facing Ghana's policy-makers and private sector are inextricably related to land: illegal gold mining, environmental degradation, ineffective land use, development stymied by tenure risk and mortgage rates at 30 per cent, according to deputy minister of lands and natural resources Benito Owusu-Bio.

Lack of affordable credit affects every aspect of urban and rural development and puts tenures at risk. More equitable land tenure can help tackle climate change, rapid urbanisation, food, water and resource scarcity, and reverse structural inequalities between and within countries, creating more inclusive societies and communities.

Strengthening land rights is essential to tackling extreme poverty, creating resilient societies and supporting efficient land markets that in turn help provide infrastructure and services. This offers benefits including food security and enables economic advancement because people can use land as investment security for loans.

Whether privately, institutionally or communally owned, land is a source of wealth, and like any other investment commodity is subject to transactions and shifting prices. And yet, because of the cultural, emotional and political nature of this commodity, land tenure and tenure security are highly controversial. Demand for land is rising, leading to intensified competition and conflict, preventing access for the most vulnerable people in society, especially women.

Following the delegation's visit, RICS, GhIS and International Land Measurement Standard (ILMS) coalition partners will be striving to include the standard as part of the land transfer and acquisition process in Ghana. The Ghanaian government is also supporting the RICS Africa Summit 2020, to be held in Accra, as well as the FIG Working Week in the city in 2021.

James Kavanagh MRICS is director of global land standards at RICS

Related competencies include: Cadastre and land administration, Compulsory purchase and compensation, Surveying and mapping

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