On Wednesday, Thomson Reuters co-hosted an event with Her Excellency Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy for Nigeria, at the Atlantic Council in Washington, DC. Minister Ngozi used her speech and the following Q&A with Lesley Wroughton, State Department Correspondent at Reuters, to outline the tremendous strides that Africa has made in recent years. Focusing on her own country, she argued that Nigeria is now an “economic powerhouse” whose size, growth rate and economic diversification away from oil and gas dependence demands respect in the global arena.
However, Minister Ngozi accepted that Nigeria still has a long way to go — there remain multiple security, political, humanitarian, social and economic issues which are holding back the country. At the root of many of these problems is what Minister Ngozi called an “infrastructure deficit” — in energy, transportation, public services, and even in something as fundamental as land registration. In fact, in Nigeria, a country of 174 million people and the largest economy in Africa, only 3% of land is currently registered.
The registration of land and secure rights to land and property titles in Nigeria is one of the most important steps the country can take in order to continue or even speed up its economic development. Minister Ngozi argued that land, and housing in particular, can solve so many social, economic and civic problems:
- Land ownership gives people a stake in their country. It is one of the most important routes to economic and social inclusion of citizens.
- Proof of ownership can be used to leverage capital for loans, and therefore encourage entrepreneurship and other economic activities.
- Proof of ownership also leads to increased use of the land, whether for housing, industrial, or agricultural purposes, therefore creating jobs. It is estimated that six jobs would stem from every house built in Nigeria, where there is a deficit of 17 million household units, so the potential benefits are huge.
- Foreign trade and investment depends on confidence in the land registration system.
The Minister also highlighted the importance of technology in facilitating land registration, arguing that it is “changing the ballgame.” Digitization speeds up the process, reduces corruption, and makes records permanent and transparent.
Modernization of the land registration system has already begun in Nigeria. Minister Ngozi highlighted that the government is now demanding that the process should now take a matter of weeks, when once it would take years. In Cross River State, in the south-east of the country, Thomson Reuters has teamed with Teqbridge Ltd., a private Nigerian technology firm, to modernize the state government’s land registry and information system. In the first six months following implementation in 2013, more search and registry fees were collected in just two months than in the entire four years before the onset of the Cross River modernization program.
Minister Ngozi emphasized that confidence in the country and improved governance will only come about once Nigeria’s citizens have faith in the institutions around them — and the right to own land and have secure title to land and property is foundational in that regard.
Thomson Reuters is proud to work in Nigeria to help them make this happen through modernized land information systems.