Uchendu Eugene Chigbu
Africa is a complex continent. It has a population made up of Africans and others of European descent. It has people of Asian descent, such as Indians, Malays and others. There are people of Arab origin. All of these people share the continent with its native black population. One thing is the fear or hatred of blacks by other races. Another thing is the fear or hatred of black people by black people in Africa. In a world already affected by Afrophobia (fear or hatred of blacks), it makes it utopian to foresee an Africa where all citizens will also be able to benefit from better living conditions and respect for others.
To illustrate that this Afrophobia is real, I want you to think about South Africa. Part of the black population likes to hate other black Africans. This bad social habit is commonly reported as xenophobia (hatred of strangers) in the media. I am one of those who call it Afrophobia. If our southern African blacks really hate or fear foreigners, they wouldn’t just target black foreigners. These so-called xenophobic attacks in South Africa are only carried out on foreign black Africans. It therefore makes sense to understand it as something much more than xenophobia. I call it Afrophobia (fear or hatred of black people). Afrophobia is a psychological illness commonly found in the so-called white developed countries of Europe and the Americas. Unfortunately, it is with us in Africa. I see shades of Afrophobia in land policies in Africa.
A land policy is a set of rules and guidelines (documented or undocumented) governing how a country’s land should be administered. It can exist as a single document or as a burst of documents and cultural practices. Land reform is a government-backed initiative that involves legislative changes (including regulations and customs or traditions) to correct past and present injustices for better development. Land policies and reforms provide a people-centred development vision and impacts. This is the case in many African countries where outside influences (including governments, principles and ideologies) cause Africa’s lands/natural resources to play against Africans. This is due to weak governance in African countries and colonial connections.
Shades of Afrophobia are evident in Africa, given the way Western-designed land interventions are perfumedly applied in local African communities without recourse to local realities. I have news for those who complain that we blame colonization for everything. Colonization has consequences on the development of nations. The World Bank’s Wealth Inequality Rankings for 2022 show that South Africa and Namibia (respectively) are the most unequal countries in the world. What do these countries have in common? It is apartheid – a system of legislation that supported segregationist policies against non-white citizens. The smarter question should be: why did these countries continue to promote or develop unequal development, years after independence? Afrophobia comes to mind â because these countries have continued to follow post-apartheid economic orders that allow for rigid systems of occupation that unequally benefit black and white sections of their populations. Outside of Namibia and South Africa, unequal access to land persists in Africa. Decolonize (unravel colonial principles based on assumptions of Afrophobia) The implementation of land policies/reforms in Africa remains a missing piece in our land discourse.
Black Africans living on communal or customary land cannot manage their land. In some African countries, communal lands are nationalized and handed over to traditional chiefs or local politicians. This deprives local people of their ancestral right to manage their land. In these same countries (including Namibia), land held mainly by European-African settlers and indigenous elites is classified as freehold private property. It is taboo to suggest that freehold land (mostly owned by European Africans) be nationalized in these countries, even though communal land (mostly Black owned) has already been nationalized. What is at stake is that local Africans are being denied their right to manage their land. Yet people of European descent and black elites are empowered to manage their own. Even in countries where all land is nationalized (such as Nigeria and many others), communal/customary lands are vested in elected politicians or traditional leaders. These scenarios assume that black Africans are incapable of managing their own properties â the same assumption used to colonize Africans.
African women (and youth) are unable to own and manage land. African women and young people largely depend on relatives to access land. This prevents existing land policies from proactively addressing women’s land rights challenges.
The right to use the land must be legally proven by land titles and other associated documents. This assumption is based on Eurocentric land practices. The consequence is that African governments (like anti-undocumented policies of governments in Europe) are brutal against undocumented people, to the point of denying them their ancestral heritage at the expense of legal recognition. Another consequence is the increase in poverty caused by unnecessary evictions from land, their main source of livelihood and subsistence.
The assumptions mentioned above explain why there is a pandemic of land insecurity in Africa. Therefore, there is a need to decolonize these assumptions of Afrophobia in land policy and adopt an Africa-wide or locally targeted approach. We need strategies that take into account decolonizing ideologies and people-centered practices. Until then, we will remain trapped in cycles of land policy implementation with no impact.