Land in many parts of Africa remains an emotive subject. Often fought over, few governments seem to have a clear approach to handling sensitive land issues. However one group in Ghana the Africa Youth Peace Call has come up with a novel way of solving the land question in Northern Ghana – by registering land titles on the block chain.
Land Ownership in Ghana - The Bottlenecks
Northern Ghana is home to some of the richest arable land in the country. It however also plays host to Ghana’s poorest citizens. In a paper written for the Food and Agricultural Organization, former Ghanaian Minister of Lands Professor Kasanga attributed the problem to the whole system of land ownership in Ghana. Owing to current land ownership practices residents in Northern Ghana cannot leverage their land to start businesses or secure it for their dependants. This leads to economic stagnation and violent conflicts.
Africa Youth Peace Call believes that the use of block chain technology could change all of this at minimal cost, and with minimum involvement of centralized institutions. This is because most of the land in Ghana is in the hands of community leaders who allot land to families. Since the block chain functions as a public ledger, it can, therefore, be used to demonstrate proof of ownership in an area where few possess land titles, and where the acquisition of land titles is often tedious and time-consuming. The potential for the application across Africa is enormous.
To educate communities on the use of block chain technology in land registration, the Africa Youth Peace Call has organized the Blockchain Land Title Summer Liberty & Entrepreneurship Camp in Tamale, Ghana. The boot camp run from May 31st – June 5th, 2015 and will have the theme, “Liberating Northern GhanaEconomically: The Blockchain to the Rescue”. The camp will bring together BitNation, the traditional rulers of Ghana and the people of Northern Ghana in a first ever attempt at registering land titles on the block chain.
Throughout the week participants will learn entrepreneurship skills, explore the social and economic benefits of a secure private property regime, coupled with land titles, corporate incorporation, smart contracts and more, and how block chain technology can deliver that on the cheap. They will be assisted to draw an Action Plan to educate their communities to facilitate their cooperation and smooth implementation of the Land Title Project.
The list of attendees reads like a list of who is who in the crypto-community, and includes names such as Roger Ver, Steve Horowitz, Susanne Tarkowski Templehoff and the President of the Africa Youth Peace Call Afrikanus Kofi Akosah.
CCN spoke to Afrikanus Kofi Akosah, President of the Africa Youth Peace Call on the upcoming camp, and the following is what he had to say,
Tell us a bit about your organization. When was it founded, and what are some of your achievements?
Africa Youth Peace Call AYPC)is an independent, non-profit, research and educational organisation devoted to the principles of individual liberty, secure private property rights, free markets, the rule of law, limited government, and government non-interference in the economy. We try to change peoples’ ideas, opinions, and mode of thinking by research, seminars and publications.
Since our inception in 2008 we have trained almost 2000 young Africans through the various periodic seminars & trainings remarkably our flagship programme the Liberty & Entrepreneurship Camps. The camps are semi-annual week long training designed to engage young Africans in the principles of a free society and how entrepreneurship is the panacea to Africa's malaise. The rational is to empower them with skills to start businesses & institutions for reforms. Participants are assisted to draw an action plans for implementation in their communities.
The fallout is very impressive as many of our alumni has moved on to start businesses & Free Market Institutions around Africa. We can boast of successful Start Ups like the Vision Art School, New Orleans Music & Talent School, QueenCity Kitchen, Kumasi Music Festivals, Quick Mechanics and many others. On the Crypto front, almost all the movements promoting Bitcoin & Blockchain today in Ghana are our alumni. The Camps has got a day set aside for Bitcoin/Blockchain Technology. Advocates like Phillip Adjei of Dream Bitcoin Foundation, Bitunit, Afriworks, BitMovement etc. got to know about Bitcoin through our copious seminars. (https://cryptos.us/component/k2/item/64-introduction-to-bitcoin-and-okcash-ghana-africa)
When did you begin your foray into block chain technology?
In 2011 George Donnelly, a Facebook friend from the US donated two bitcoin with the value of $60 to AYPC. Those were the days you had to wait for three days to download a wallet. In fact, I was curious & decided to research about it. Instantly I realize this will help Africans immensely in engaging in cross-border trade and even banking which many Africans have no access.
I began selling handicrafts on the defunct Bitmit Platform, aka, Bitcoin Amazon, and buying electronics to sell locally. Then our seminars also incorporated Bitcoin/Blockchain sessions in schools, colleges & communities to spread the benefits & opportunities the technology offers.
Tell us a bit about the potential of Northern Ghana. What makes you describe the land as being "rich"?
Northern Ghana covers 31% of Ghana's landmass making it the largest region; that is also very fertile for agriculture production. It has got the highest water volume in the country. Ironically it's one of the three poorest regions in Ghana with most of its inhabitants living in squalor. With Sound Policy, it could easily become a food basket & manufacturing zone, especially in agro-processing.
What is the legal situation regarding land in Northern Ghana?
Alas, they have no title deeds to the land because of expensive, incoherent & cumbersome government Land Administration System in the country. Although there’s rich land in abundance, people cannot leverage their land to, for instance, lend money for education or starting businesses, or secure it for their children or spouses if something happens, because they have no land titles to prove the ownership of the land. This has created economic stagnation, and often violent conflicts. However, there’s a solution: land titles can be done on the Bitcoin blockchain, at minimal costs, and without the involvement of centralized institutions.
How do you see block chain helping Northern Ghana? Are there any specific districts that you'll be starting off on? What are your reasons for settling on the pilot districts if any? Do you have any quantitative projections on the impact of your block chain intervention in Northern Ghana?
It's an unprecedented opportunity to free millions of people from poverty. The Tamale District has been earmarked for our pilot project looking at the fact that it has got the highest population. Last year Bitnation CEO, Susanne Templehof was in Ghana and even taught at our Winter Liberty Camp in January this year.
What are other applications of block chain technology that you envision being implemented in Ghana?
The blockchain offers a lot of opportunities, and we are exploring things like business incorporation on the block chain & starting businesses like money transfer, betting, paying bills & school fees.
What has been the response of the Ghanaian government to your initiative?
In fact, the government is busy plundering they haven't taken notice of this awesome revolution.
Has your pioneering use of block chain technology being replicated anywhere else in Africa?
Our partners in Sierra Leone are interested and wants to start doing same over there but are waiting for the outcome of our pilot.
What do you think of their endeavors? Will it be a success?