Ugandan gov’t advised to purchase idle land in greater Kampala

Ugandan gov't advised to purchase idle land in greater Kampala
World Bank recommends KCCA and government to zone and purchase of undeveloped land in Greater Kampala

Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) has been advised to purchase all idle land in the city and gazette it for manufacturing and public investments.

The recommendation is embedded in the just released World Bank report, “From Regulators to Enablers: Role of City Governments in Economic Development of Greater Kampala.” The report highlights the growing challenges of unplanned urbanization, unemployment and informality in the Kampala, a city with a population of four million people, and how these can be addressed to ensure a brighter future for residents and businesses.

It suggests that KCCA works closely with major land-owning institutions such as the Church and Buganda Kingdom to zone vacant and underdeveloped land. After mapping undeveloped land, the report says government should consider land swaps with land-owning institutions in order to facilitate land development in essential city locations.

“In order to finance land purchasing, it is recommended that KCCA and local governments begin to coordinate purchasing vacant and underdeveloped land through a land banking mechanism, which could potentially make use of the Government of Uganda Land Fund,” the report says.

“The efficient purchasing and reallocating of underused or vacant land would increase land supply for mixed uses, including commercial and industrial activities. Crucially, in order to discourage further speculation and corruption, land should be earmarked and reallocated in a transparent process that benefits a large number of firms or citizens,” the report recommends.

The report notes further, that land zoning and city planning is crucial to encourage the efficient use of space in the city.

It says zoning vacant land and giving it to manufacturers has powerful agglomeration incentives for firms, particularly in the manufacturing sector to cluster with one another. The current lack of industrial clustering suggests coordination failures within the city, the report says.

“Given the high cost of land and land tenure issues, it appears unlikely that firms will be able to harmonize locations and generate industrial clustering without some government assistance. KCCA and local governments can address this coordination failure by facilitating increased firm clustering for key sectors, through increased zoning and infrastructure provision,” it says.

Complex land tenure

The report describes land tenure in greater Kampala as complex, constraining both public investment and industries’ ability to grow. “Clear land rights are a requirement for organized and efficient urban development. The majority of the land in Kampala operates under a complex land tenure regime that recognizes independent rights over land and structures giving rise to legal disputes and blocking investment.”

The 1995 Constitution and 1998 Land Act transferred all land from the central government to the Buganda Kingdom, local governments such as District Land Boards and private landowners. Consequently, the report says central government must now purchase land from these landowners if it wishes to use land for development purposes.

The majority of land in greater Kampala city is Mailo and Leasehold. The large share of Mailo land and subsequent private land compensation, has means the construction of each urban road is expensive and land is released for development in an uneven manner.

Between 52 to 75 percent of land in greater Kampala, the report says is Mailo, ideally owned by Buganda Kingdom while 26 to 30 percent of the land is under leasehold. The subtleties involved in accessing and purchasing land under the two land tenures, the report says tends to frustrate private and public investment.