On April 11th Karol Boudreaux — The Land Tenure and Resource Rights Practice Lead at the Cloudburst Group — spoke on regimes with weak property rights in the developing world as part of a series of lectures at IWP sponsored by the Charles Koch Foundation. The lecture was entitled “Radicalization, Conflicts, and the Role of Property Rights.”
Ms. Boudreaux noted that her expertise focuses on property rights in developing contexts, and asserted that weak property rights could contribute to radicalization amongst affected individuals.
Ms. Boudreaux offered the audience her credentials in a subsequent conversation about sub-Saharan African property rights systems. Her experience on the ground in Africa allowed her to see the many failings of various national ownership frameworks. These frameworks ultimately find their antecedents in the colonial heritage of Africa, in which imperial European law was applied roughly over an extant system of customary law that followed the common law in a loose pattern of development. After decolonization during the 1950s and 1960s, Africa’s legal systems moved almost unaltered to the domain of national governments, which now held de jure control over the land and resources of the entire country.
The problem with nationalization of land was that it allowed Africa’s politically powerful families and kinship networks to monopolize the distribution of resources from poorer areas without offering the aggrieved parties the legal ability to dispute the ownership of the land in question.
Ms. Boudreaux argued that we, the international community, and particularly American organs of policy, should prioritize an agenda that recognizes the customary rights of individuals over the land on which they labor. In other words, by devolving the legal structure of ownership down to the individual customary tenant, land exchange and development could be done more ethically and effectively. Perhaps as importantly, this sort of exchange would also lessen the risks of disenfranchisement among many who are currently affected by the process.