Tag Archives: Land Registry

Saying Bye Bye to Land fraud

Headlines like 5000 families evicted off their land; Hundreds left homeless in fresh Apaa land eviction; 200 people evicted from Mukono Land are commonplace in Uganda’s media.

Talking about land and its ownership elicits a lot of emotions in Uganda today. No day passes without an article in the media over land wrangles, displacement of the poor masses, killings, fraud, among others. The situation reached a point where the president had to appoint a special commission to investigate land matters across the country.

Currently, anyone can become a land dealer without the need for certification or registration. This has led to many conmen opting for this profession. By having easy access to land titles of their clients, they are in a much better position to manipulate and fraudulently transact on their behalf over and above the issued mandate. Sometimes they connive with a few unscrupulous officials within the Lands docket at the ministry to achieve their intended goals.

Uganda’s land administration has over the times been burdened by numerous challenges which led to a massive degradation of services. During the last decade, the idea of a Land Information System was mooted to enable transformation of the land management from the then manual to electronic operations. In 2010, the process of setting up this information system begun and a lot has been achieved over the last eight years.

The Land Information System aims at:

  • Faster resolution of land disputes

  • The prevention, reduction or elimination of – backdoor transactions, forgeries and graft as well as challenges associated with missing land records.

Upon completion, there shall be full integration of physical planning, surveying, valuation, land administration and land registration.

One stop land transaction centres called Ministry Zonal Offices have been set up to eliminate the need for people flocking the Kampala or Entebbe lands office for transactions. Spread across the country, they are expected to reduce the pressure on the operations at the headquarters. You can find them in Kabale, Luwero, Mityana, Mbarara, Tororo, Jinja, Mukono, Gulu, Arua, Mbale among others.

Land tenure is defined as the relationship that individuals and groups hold with respect to land and land based resources like trees, minerals etc. In Uganda, we have according to the law the following land tenure systems;

  1. Customary land tenure: Is applicable to specific areas and subject to customary laws. It could be owned individually, communally or jointly by a group of people. It is the easiest to process considering that one doesn’t have to go beyond the district authorities to attain the ownership certificate.


    Karamojong elders signing up for a communal customary certificate of ownership.

  2. Freehold tenure: Involves holding of registered land in perpetuity or for a period less than perpetuity which may be fixed by a condition. It enables the holder to exercise subject to the law, full powers of ownership of land.

  3. Mailo tenure: Involves the holding of registered land in perpetuity and has its origins from the allocation of land pursuant to the 1900 Buganda agreement. It is mainly confined to central Uganda. It permits the separation of ownership of land from the ownership of developments on land made by a bonafide occupant.

  4. Leasehold tenure: A system of owning land for a particular period of time. A landlord or lessor grants another person (tenant or lessee) exclusive possession of land usually for a defined period.

A number of changes are taking place at the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development that the public may not be aware of due to the poor information flow. I was surprised to learn that most of the land related transactions that we quickly relegate to middlemen can be easily handled directly by us landlords.

The processes of acquiring or subdividing titles, title verification, placing caveats, ownership transfer etc have all been eased by the computerisation. Before you opt to pay millions of shillings to get this done for you, give it a try yourself first.

Titles as a standard do have photos of the owner(s) and the database maintains contact numbers to which an SMS message is sent every time a transaction is being carried out on the respective title. This is expected to help owners keep track of what is going on.

All services for land transaction can be accessed through the geographically spread out zonal offices, currently 13 operational with a target of 21. Without doubt, this addresses congestion at the head office as well as the delays that have been typical of this process.

Did you know that there are free pre-approved government house plans? You can use them and save the money spent on paying for a houseplan.

Did you know that there are approved physical plans for urban areas? As you buy land, it helps to consult these physical plans to ensure that your intended purpose of land use is in line with the plan otherwise you might be stopped in your tracks after spending money. Find some of those approved physical plans here.

These developments in the land sector have been beneficiaries of the Competitive and Enterprise Development Project (CEDP) for Uganda, a project funded by the Government of Uganda with credit from the World Bank.

James Wire is a Business and Technology Consultant based in Kampala, Uganda
@wirejames on Twitter.
lunghabo [at] gmail [dot] com

Is Uganda’s Lands Information System really Computerised?

Lands_UgandaOn two occasions I have seen this advert  by the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development (MLHUD) inviting the general public to verify land title information in the new computerised land titles. They typically organise Land Registration Open Days, pitch camp in a specific location and expect every Wire, Mugwanya and Nabweteme to run to them and find out more about the status of their land.

The Ministry under “The Design, Supply, Installation and Implementation of National Land Information System Infrastructure (DeSINLISI)” project is undertaking measures to modernise land administration in Uganda. Alot has been done in the back-end as regards computerisation of the records and compared with the past, what we have currently is relatively impressive.

There is this famous story of a Muhima elder who boarded a bus for the first time to visit his son in law. Upon entering, he left his walking stick at the door of the bus (customarily, he is used to leaving the stick at the entrance of the house before he enters). When the bus reached it’s destination, he disembarked and expected to find his walking stick still there. The old man threw a tantrum when he couldn’t see his beloved walking stick. The Ministry of Lands is behaving in a similar manner. By embracing computerisation, they are staying stuck to habits that thrived in a non electronic era.

When I go to a restaurant and settle down, I usually have a menu that details all the available food and drinks they can offer. The food I want can only be prepared by the chef in the Kitchen. There are two options for me to get what I want:

Option 1 – I walk to the Kitchen and tell the chef what I want and wait till he has prepared it then walk back to my table with the food.

Option 2 – I get attended to by a waiter who takes my order, communicates to the chef and then later delivers my food at the table without me having to walk up and down.

The Ministry of Lands seems to be stuck to Option 1 in its understanding of how it should deal with the consumer (general public) even after computerisation. Like the legendary Muhima elder, they have embraced technology but are letting the very things that contributed to the inefficiencies in the past linger on. Why do I have to go to their offices anymore if indeed they now have an electronic system in place?

When designing computer systems, the new trend is to use the approach indicated in Option 2. The presence of a waiter in a restaurant makes the entire customer experience so great and thus increases the likelihood of customers patronising that place. In computer terms, the waiter that makes our lives simple can be referred to as an API (Application Programming Interface). With the system that has been developed for Uganda’s Lands Registry, all that is required now is for the National Lands Information System (NLIS) to come up with an API that can then be used by independent developers who are more than willing to come up with Phone and Web Apps that facilitate interaction with the Lands Registry. There is no longer a need for any sane Ugandan to walk to the National Theatre during the Land Registry Open Days, spend close to three hours just to establish information that could reach them on their phone with ease.

API_DiagThe National Land Information System (NLIS) can then focus on ensuring that it has a well functioning credible database and working with other partners in the private sector, it then ensures that the dissemination of the information is achieved swiftly. The dissemination of this information can be at a fee which is paid by those trying to access Land Information through avenues like Mobile Money or any other third party dealers that may have been identified.

The wins for the Ministry here are;

  • Increased access by the masses to the Land Registry

  • Increased revenue generation from the online land search activities that are now conducted by many more people than before. A revenue share model can be worked out with the participating private companies developing Applications just like the Telecoms have with the content providers.

  • Lands Information System extension at no greater cost to the Ministry since the private sector players will do this in order to generate more revenue.

  • Focus on the core database systems and ensuring that there is ultimate integrity of the information shared.

My plea to the team handling the NLIS, is that it’s time you focused on the customer and ensured that there is more inclusiveness. Avoid the traditional disease in most Uganda Government departments of desiring too much control of installed systems even when it’s to the detriment of the masses. Cede some ground and you will not only benefit as indicated above but also help spur innovation and entrepreneurial growth among the fledgling youthful software developers that are all over our streets.

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