Compulsory Acquisition as a Constitutional Matter: The Case in Africa

Liz Alden Wily
  • Journal of African Law, February 2018, Cambridge University Press
  • DOI: 10.1017/s0021855318000050

Do African Constitutions protect Customary LandOwners at Compulsory Acquisition?

What is it about?

All states legally permit private property to be taken for public purposes, in return for compensation. Registered private property extends over only 10 percent of African lands. This paper examines all 54 modern national constitutions in Africa to determine if they recognize unregistered customary properties as equally due compensation and other reparations available to the minority who have titled and non-customary rights to their land.

Why is it important?

Africa is in the throes of a massive surge in infrastructural development and commercialization of rural lands which is deeply affecting millions of customary landholders. This is most deleterious where customary tenure is not upheld as a regime of property rights. It is also problematic where the major resource of a community is not its permanently farmed lands or settlements but rangelands, forests and swampy lands upon which they depend, but where these areas are not legally eligible for compensation.

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