Skin lands in Ghana and application of blockchain technology for acquisition and title registration

Publication Date04 May 2020
AuthorKwabena Mintah,Kingsley Tetteh Baako,Godwin Kavaarpuo,Gideon Kwame Otchere
SubjectProperty management & built environment,Building & construction,Building & construction law,Real estate & property,Property law
Skin lands in Ghana and
application of blockchain
technology for acquisition and
title registration
Kwabena Mintah and Kingsley Tetteh Baako
School of Property, Construction and Project Management,
RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia
Godwin Kavaarpuo
Melbourne School of Design, The University of Melbourne,
Melbourne, Australia, and
Gideon Kwame Otchere
School of Property, Construction and Project Management,
RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia
Purpose The land sector in Ghana, particularly skin lands acquisition and title registration are fraught with
several issues including unreliable record-keeping systems and landencroachments. The paper explores the potential
of blockchain application in skin lands acquisition and title registration in Ghana with the aim of developing a
blockchain-enabled framework for land acquisition. The purpose of this paper is to use the framework as a tool
towards solving some of the loopholes in the process that leads to numerous issues bedeviling the current system.
Design/methodology/approach The paper adoptsa systematic literature review approach fused with
informal discussionswith key informants and leverages on the researchersownexperiences to conceptualize
blockchainapplication in skin lands acquisition in Ghana.
Findings Problems bedevilingskin lands acquisition and title registration emanatedfrom the issuance of
allocation notes, payment of kola money and use of a physical ledger to document land transactions. As a
result, the developed frameworkwas designed to respond to these issues and deal with the problems. As the
proposed blockchainframework would be a public register, it was argued that information on all transactions
on a specic parcel of land could be available to the public in real-time. This enhances transparency and
possibly resolves the issue of encroachments and indeterminate land boundaries because stakeholders can
determinerightful owners of land parcels before initiating transactions.
Practical implications Practically, blockchain technologyhas the potential to deal with the numerous
issues affecting the smooth operation of skin lands acquisition and title registration in Ghana. Once the
enumerated issuesare resolved, there will be certainty of title to and ownership of land and propertyto drive
investmentsbecause lenders couldmore easily ascertain ownersof land parcels that couldbe used as collateral
for securingloans. Similarly, propertydevelopers and land purchaserscould easily identify rightful ownersfor
land transactions.The governmentwould be able to identify owners for land and propertytaxation.
Originality/value This paper contributes to the literature on blockchain and application to land
acquisitionand title registration with a focus on a specic customaryland ownership system.
Keywords Ghana, Land tenure, Blockchain technology, Skin lands acquisition, Title registration,
Customary land tenure
Paper type Research paper
The authors thank Mr Mawusi Yaw Ameyibor of Lands Commission, Tamale, Ghana.
Application of
Received31 December 2019
Revised11 February 2020
Accepted1 April 2020
Journalof Property, Planning and
Vol.12 No. 2, 2020
pp. 147-169
© Emerald Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/JPPEL-12-2019-0062
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
1. Introduction
Ghanas land tenure system is usually describedas one of the legal pluralism. That is, there
is the existence of a dual land tenure system whereby customary land tenure system
co-exists with statutoryland tenure system. This results in a complex mix of tenuresystems
whereby the customary basis of ownership of land is accepted but recognized through
statutory pathways. Based on ownership, control and management of land and related
resources, lands in Ghana are classied into two main categories: customary lands and
public lands (Ministry of Land and Forestry, 2003). A detailed account of the structure of
Ghanas land tenure system is demonstratedin Figure 1. As shown in Figure 1, public lands
and customary lands (which are the two main categories) are further divided into state and
vested lands and family/clan and stool/skin lands, respectively. Although stool and skin
lands are grouped under customary lands, there are variations in land acquisition and title
registration procedures.
Under the customary land tenure system, customary law as handed down to natives
by forebearers has been modied and regulated by statute, with common law and
equitable principles imbedded. This system of land tenure is generally in an unwritten
form, based on local practices and norms that are exible, negotiable and location-
Alhassan, 2006). For example, though the customary land tenure system is
practiced in both southern and northern land areas in Ghana, the customary practices
governing land ownership and usage are different. The right to use or to dispose of rights
of use over land is based on the fact that such rights are rightfully recognized by the
landowning group where the rules governing the acquisition and transfer of these rights
are usually explicit and well-known (Paaga, 2013). Customary landholding practices
dominate land administration in Ghana, and each transaction whether opaque or
transparent is governed by distinct customs pertaining to the local area/market. The
domination of customary land ownership is afrmed by Kasanga and Kotey (2001) who
argue that despite notable variations in management practices and governance
structures across Ghana, it is estimated that about 80% of all lands in Ghana and
between 80% and 90% of all the undeveloped lands in Ghana are held under the
customary land tenure system.
Figure 1.
The structure of
Ghanas landtenure

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