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Journal of African Development Studies
Published twice per year by
Ethiopian Civil Service University
Volume 1 Number 1 December 2008



Serbeh-Yiadom, Kc*

Abstract:This paper looks at the process of land delivery for development generally and, particularly, in urbanized Ethiopia. It traces the history of land tenure from imperial times through the socialist revolution to the present and finds that the existing land nationalization posture is not only development-oriented but, indeed, a sensible socio-economic intervention considering the country’s historical antecedent, i.e. feudalism. However, the study also finds that the centralized land administration is not addressing the challenges of progressive and cross-transactional land delivery for urban development. Again, tenure insecurity and lack of recognition of location as an important, even if peculiar, attribute of land have driven the urban land market underground. Then, there appears to be a concern for the possible emergence of capitalism in land tenure (or is it really a fear of the return of feudalism) which could, some believe, lead to an unhealthy grab for land by the few. The combined effect of policy shortcomings, overly concern for unbridled land market operations, and seeming fear of the past constrain both land supply and investment flow to the sector, particularly, for housing. Mortgage, ever reliant on title security and an active property market, remains largely unexplored. This paper makes the point that it is time bureaucracy gave way to a market-oriented culture of land allocation, land holding and land transfer. It asserts that private ownership of land or, more precisely, the exercise of private rights over land is neither a threat nor a negation of the constitutional provision enshrining the fee simple, i.e. the superior (allodial) title, in the commonwealth or state. To buttress this assertion the argument is made that privately-held lesser interests in land are, indeed, conceptually and legally tenable so long as they remain linked to their superior draw. That such relationship can, in fact, bring order to land administration, security to tenure, and beneficial financial returns to the public estate. The paper concludes that a liberal land administration and an active urban land market under the auspices of a well-functioning public land administration regime will be, by far, a more effective weapon for fighting poverty and speeding national economic development than a restrictive one.

Keywords: Nationalization, Feudalism, Land Administration, Land Delivery, Location, Mortgage, Public Land (estate), Land Market.

* Serbeh-Yiadom, KC. Is Assistant Professor and Manger of Urban Masters Program, Ethiopian Civil Service University. Please make correspondence

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 28 June 2011 08:36