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Africa's youth are a 'ticking time bomb'

A representative from Namibia's Ministry of Land and Resettlement at the 2017 Conference on Land Policy in Africa (CLPA2017) in Addis Ababa, Prisca Mandimika, has urged African governments to ensure that land reforms and acquisition processes favour the youth, stating, "Youths constitute the biggest social group in Africa and are therefore a ticking time bomb if we continue to exclude them from such important matters."

Ms. Mandimika was speaking at the end of a session she chaired on 15 October during CLPA2017 under the theme, "Youth and Land Reform: A Story of Engagement and Exclusion." The session featured case-study presentations on land related challenges faced by youths in Namibia, Zambia and South Africa.

A common problem raised in all the presentations was the lack of government initiatives to promote land ownership and land use among youths. This was cited as a major contributor to youth unemployment and increasing crime rates in many African countries with high levels of mismanagement and corruption in the land sector.

In a paper titled, "Empowering the Zambian Youth with Land Information for Sustainable Development," Raphael Chikwampu – Country Coordinator of the MELA Project in Zambia –said customary land constitutes 94 percent of land in Zambia and that this simply worsens the unfairness in land allocation.

"This just tells you that most of the land is managed according to traditional norms and practices where there is limited transparency and youths are not a priority," said Mr. Chikwampu. He added that customary land management is fraught with gender inequalities, poor documentation, and that the indiscriminate sale of land by traditional rulers is hardly challenged by their subjects.

This position was also highlighted in a presentation by Frank Byamugisha of the African Center for Economic Transformation in Accra, Ghana, where customary tenure and practices were described as "largely biased against youth, girls and young women."

Mr. Byamugisha stated that the customary land sector provides limited legal protection and access to information on land rights for youths.

For his part, Kletus Likuwa, Senior Researcher at the University of Namibia, who presented a paper on the 'Voices of Youths on Customary Land Rights and Registration' in Namibia said the situation is worse for women.

"Such challenge is even more serious with female youths because of the patriarchal nature of most of our land allocation structures, especially in rural areas where parents traditionally hand down their landed property to male children," said Mr. Likuwa.

Admire Nyamwanza who spoke about the situation in South Africa (SA) said major debating points and policy initiatives on land in post-apartheid SA are mainly centred on race, class and gender dynamics.

"As a result of this," said Mr. Nyamwanza, "we have only 13 percent of youth beneficiaries of the land and agrarian reform since 1994, meanwhile youth unemployment is currently at an all-time high of 55 percent. This is a ticking socio-economic time bomb if not addressed."

The good news, added Mr Nyamwanza, is that, "the land issue has moved to the centre of political and economic discourses and youths are very much part of current contestations around land and economic transformation in the country."

The chair of the session, Ms. Mandimika noted that it would be ideal if youth themselves can push for their inclusion in land related matters, adding "CLPA2017 clearly provides the platform for such discussions."

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).
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