MJ Minter

Land Rights – An international perspective

Written on 08/01/2018
Profmark Team


The land question is foremost on all South African minds, with debate raging across all spectrums. To put the land issue in perspective the following extract from the International Growth Centre policy brief on unlocking land rights for urban development highlights that the land issue is not unique to South Africa. Over above that a serious business case can be motivated for ensuring legally enforceable land rights.

“For cities to be productive and liveable places, urban land needs to be used efficiently and intensively. Well-functioning cities typically cluster firms and people together around productive central business districts and manufacturing centres that form the city’s employment engine. By contrast, many low-income cities are failing to use their land efficiently, instead growing outwards through sprawling self-built informal settlements.

Inefficient land use and insufficient investment, both in private properties and in public infrastructure, is often underpinned by weak land rights. In many cities, land is gridlocked in a web of competing ownership claims and overlapping tenure systems. This inhibits the private sector from either making substantial investments on land or transferring it to a more productive user. It also prevents governments from coordinating a virtuous cycle of infrastructure provision, co-ordinated land-use planning and land taxation to fund these investments.

Given the politically challenging nature of reforms to land tenure, inertia has been a common policy response across many developing cities. However as demonstrated by experiences from Rwanda to Thailand, decisive public policy, backed by strong political support, can prevent these patterns of low investment and inefficient land use.

Secure land rights encourage owners to invest in improving their properties. Legally enforceable land rights enable governments to tax and plan land use. Marketable land rights allow land to be transferred to its most productive use.