Zambia’s National Land Titling Programme – Challenges and Opportunities

Published in: Annual World Bank Land and Poverty Conference

The National Land Titling Programme (NLTP) was conceived in 2014 with the idea of placing all land in Zambia on title at a reduced cost for its citizens. At the time of conception there were only about 142000 certificates of title for a country with a land area of 752614 square kilometres. Almost 80 percent of the land is not registered and bringing all this land under title is a massive undertaking. The programme objectives are to guarantee security of tenure, reduce displacements, promote internal security and increase the revenue base and investment in the Country thereby contributing to socio-economic development. To achieve these objectives, the government of Zambia has piloted the implementation of the National Land Titling in two areas of Lusaka i.e. Madido which is an illegal settlement and Kamwala South which was planned by the Lusaka City Council. In customary areas work has been done by private partners to document land rights. This documentation however is not backed by law and is therefore not included in the national registration system. The government has also engaged the World Bank with the view to seek technical assistance in upscaling the efforts from the pilots and develop revenue potential from land titling.

As part of the National Land Titling Programme the government also started a national Land Audit for all parcels in resettlement areas and has engaged Land Surveyors to carry out surveys. As efforts to improve Land Administration in the country the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources in 2013 set up the Zambia Integrated Management Land Information System (ZILMIS) to provide secure, transparent and traceable land transactions with the objective of developing an integrated GIS system that would enable access of information between the Land Register and Cadastral Information. Recognising the need for fundamental data which would form the base for Titling and sharing of information the MLNR also developed the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) project in 2014. ZILMIS and NSDI are part of the initiative to leverage ICT and contribute to the vision on ICT in Zambia which is “A Zambia transformed into information and knowledge based society supported by increased access to ICTs by all citizens by 2030”.

With all these initiatives the government has had challenges on two fronts;

  1. Legal and social challenges related to land registration especially in customary areas: The Pilots have noted challenges regarding data collection and data management and also identified weaknesses in the regulatory framework related to systematic adjudication. The current legal framework is suited to sporadic titling as titles can only begin to be processed upon collection and signing of invitation to treat documents. In customary areas the Chiefs are apprehensive of titles being issued by government as this would usurp their authority. A compromise Chief’s Certificate has been issued in pilots carried out in Eastern Province which however do not have legal backing at the moment.
  2. Financial challenges to achieve intended objectives. These challenges require that work be done in carrying out legal reforms to include fit-for-purpose land administration systems which would allow for cheaper and more efficient land documentation, on one hand, and find funding models that would finance the NLTP. The urban Pilots have shown a high cost of about $90 per land record in one of the pilots. This raises issues of affordability in terms of upscaling.

Lessons learnt from the pilots and customary areas are presented to help develop solutions for upscaling.

Keywords: National Land Titling Programme, Land Audit, National Spatial Data Infrastructure, Integrated Land Information Management System.