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For almost two decades, Rexford Ahene, professor of economics and business and coordinator of Africana studies, has worked to reform land and real estate markets of numerous African countries through his extensive experience as a land economist.

Ahene’s area of expertise is the connection between land assets and efficient functioning markets, specifically focusing on regularization of property rights, the elimination of institutional barriers, and a greater transparency in land administration. These skills are in high demand in developing nations.

Ahene has served as a policy adviser through several international development organizations, including the World Bank, the United Nations, and USAID, to work with nations such as Tanzania, South Africa, Ghana, and Malawi.

His most recent work has been as senior technical advisor for the Uganda Private Sector Competitiveness Project with the support of the World Bank. In 2004, Ahene conducted studies and developed a proposal to restructure Uganda’s land administration framework in order to stimulate investment and enhance private sector competitiveness.

According to Ahene, in most countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, land and associated real estate make up one of a household’s most important assets. Some evidence indicates about 50 percent of most Ugandan households’ wealth is in the form of land holdings. With the shift of many African countries from dictatorships, socialism, and economic regress to market capitalism, making use of this wealth in the proper way will lead to economic development and growth and poverty reduction.

However, Uganda has not been able to utilize this potential in the past mainly because of insecure property rights due to three main factors: inappropriate or unclear legislation; non-existent or ambiguous land records; and the inability to enforce existing land rights.

Ahene says that people in the United State typically take for granted the excellent social and economic infrastructure provided to us. Resources such as accurate property titles, an administrative structure, an updated public information system, and laws to protect business contracts and real estate transactions are all commonplace in the U.S.

“Whether measured by legal ownership, access to mortgage finance, or the ability to reinvest land assets, the share of housing credit to total investment in most African countries ranges from 10 to 15 percent. If you don’t have the right policy framework, it is like a jungle and most African countries do not have this,” says Ahene. “Uganda’s land administration infrastructure was in chaos and its records in shambles.”

The project will work to totally revamp and modernize Uganda’s land records systems and verify the accuracy of records that already exist. It also needs to formulate a definition of individual property rights that will be guaranteed by the government.

A computerized Land Information System (LIS) – which shows ownership information, spatial distribution of land resources, planning and zoning laws, and demographics – will be created. Also, a school to train land management officials will be put into place. This will allow for an administrative system staffed by local experts at all levels to build the capability for sustaining an effective land management system in the future. The goal is to increase the ability of households and forms a growing competitive market environment to exercise their property rights over privatized assets.

The Government of Uganda has budgeted $24 million for the project. The World Bank has requested that Ahene be released from his teaching responsibilities at Lafayette for the next two years, so he can help implement the changes.

Though, this doesn’t mean he won’t be interacting with students.

Through the EXCEL program, Ahene has enlisted the help of George Armah ’08(Accra, Ghana), who is pursuing a B.S. mathematics and A.B. with a major in computer science, and Cristina Callagy ’09 (Hawthorne, N.Y.), who is pursuing a B.S. psychology and A.B. with a major in anthropology and sociology.

The students will conduct specific aspects of the research with Ahene over the summer and will also spend at least two weeks working in Uganda. Armah’s main project will be developing a critical evaluation of preliminary design proposals for the LIS network, and Callagy will examine the impact of customary practices and new legal provisions to demarcate and secure land rights of women and vulnerable groups particularly in areas of the country that registry records do not exist or are ambiguous or disputed.

Ahene previously served as the principal architect for developing new national land policy, land laws, and regulations for Tanzania and Malawi and significantly influenced land administration reforms in Ghana and South Africa. He has also presented research around the globe and published many articles, books, and reports on different aspects of land policy and administrative reforms. Some of these include Land Policy and Private Sector Competitiveness in Africa (forthcoming Sept. 2007) and Privatization and Investment in Sub-Saharan Africa (1992).

Ahene also mentors students conducting their own research such as honors thesis projects performed by Nangula Shejavali ’06,who graduated with an A.B. with majors in international affairs and Africana studies and Nkosi Aberdeen ’06, who graduated with an A.B. with majors in anthropology & sociology and Africana studies. He also teaches the three-week interim-session abroad course Modern Sub-Saharan Africa: Kenya and Tanzania and will be teaching the new interim course Voices of South Africa with Margarete Lamb-Faffelberger, professor and head of foreign languages and literatures.

Ahene received a bachelor’s degree in Land Economics and Real Estate from University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana; a master’s in economics from Virginia State University; and a masters in agricultural economics and Ph.D. in economic development and public policy from University of Wisconsin.

Categorized in: Academic News