15, June 2013

Silverstreet Capital Sign Protocol to Show Support for Introducing Proper Title for Land in Africa

On the 15 June 2013 at the G8 meeting, SilverStreet Capital signed a protocol in support of government action to address land governance. This emphasises our support for introducing proper title for land in Africa.

What does this mean?

  1. We support the goal of good land governance as it emerges from the G8 land agenda and the leadership demonstrated by developing country governments. We expect that it will contribute to raise standards, strengthen sustainable investment, improve transparency and contribute to food security.
  2. We support the Voluntary Guidelines on Responsible Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests as the globally agreed policy framework. These guarantee government action to ensure land rights are recognised and protected and reinforce the investment standards expected from business enterprise. In supporting the Guidelines, we recognise the importance of human rights and legitimate tenure rights as a key guiding principle for addressing land governance.
  3. We stress the importance of stakeholder engagement at the local level to promote understanding for economic contribution which the private sector can make to local livelihoods, as well as to improve transparency, monitoring and accountability to maximise the opportunity for any investment to lead to sustainable development and minimise risks, especially to food security.
  4. We commit to take steps to ensure the principles enshrined in the Voluntary Guidelines are incorporated into our business practices and we will actively engage at local level to support governments and other stakeholders to drive forward the Guidelines full implementation.
  5. We will look to initiatives, for example the Committee for World Food Security, as platforms to share lessons, learn from each other’s experiences, and contribute to raising standards on responsible investments.

G8 Conference
The conference was opened by David Cameron and focused on building best practice in Africa to manage the development of mines, oil/gas resources and land. Cameron led with the UK government’s proposal to emphasise “the 3 T’s.”

  1. Trade: within Africa, removing the many border/road issues transporting goods, which would allow goods to pass through countries with little hindrance.
  2. Tax: for companies in Africa to pay fair tax in Africa rather than disguising profits in off-shore tax havens.
  3. Transparency: the need to remove corruption.

SilverStreet then took part in a session on land, where we were one of five signatories of the protocol. The other signatories included Cargill, Olam, Aviva Investors, and F&C Asset Management. The session highlighted the need for clear title and security of tenure in Africa. The protocol we signed emphasizes this need. Additionally, there was some discussion of the need for transparency in land deals, in order to improve levels of corruption.

The Need for the Protocol
“Improving land governance is vital for achieving rapid economic growth and translating it into significantly less poverty and more opportunity for Africans”
Makhtar Diop World Bank Vice President for Africa
“Land governance is a proven pathway to achieving transformational change and impact that will help secure Africa’s future for the benefit of all its families.”
Jamal Saghir World Bank Director for Sustainable Development in Africa
The World Bank has recently issued an update of its report “Securing Africa’s Land for Shared Prosperity,” in which it proposes significant changes to the way in which African countries manage their land in order to promote sustainable development and growth.
The report notes that despite the abundant agricultural land and natural resources, Sub-Saharan Africa is still mostly poor and has been unable to translate its recent robust growth into rapid poverty reduction. It suggests that poor land governance, the manner in which land rights are defined and administered, may be the root of the problem. Although the problem of poor land governance is daunting, it is not insurmountable. The last decade has witnessed concerted efforts by pan-Africa organizations and African countries to undertake land policy reforms and to pilot innovative approaches to improve land governance. By signing the protocol we are helping to tackle the issues of lad governance and in the long term reduce poverty.
Over 90% of Africa’s rural land is undocumented, making it highly vulnerable to land grabbing by private interests and expropriation with poor compensation, particularly for women, who are often further disadvantaged by cultural practices. This has severe consequences, including the dispossession of local communities and rising investment risks. While the land rights of community members were historically secure, this is no longer the case, as demand for communal land has surged, especially in the last ten years, in response to increased private investment in natural resources.
The role of land policies in ensuring social stability and good governance cannot be overemphasized, as broken land-related laws and conflicts have often led to collapses in governance, social instability, and even civil war. For example, unresolved claims for restitution of land rights in former settler colonies, especially in Kenya, South Africa, and Zimbabwe, have been controversial historically and are enduring sources of social instability. Consequently by agreeing to follow the protocol, SilverStreet can work towards greater social stability, by working at a local level to ensure land rights are recognised and protected.
For Africa to continue to grow, more will need to be done to boost rural income and agricultural production. We believe that this report will serve as a good guide for assisting African countries in coming up with plans and policies that will achieve these goals.
Further Reading: http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/Securing %20Africas%20Land%20for%20Shared%20Prosperity.pdf