Senegalese Parliament Legislates New Land Reforms to Benefit the Urban Poor

[24 May 2011] -- The Parliament of the Republic of Senegal recently deliberated on and passed two landmark Acts with far-reaching implications for the country’s land regime.
 
They are:
  • A new Land Tenure Act that harmonises all the revisions and developments previously made to the 1932 Decree, which guarantees beneficiaries security of tenure through the issuance of an inalienable, permanent title deed.
  • An Act allowing provisional land occupancy papers to be transformed into permanent title deeds.
 
The Land Tenure Act
 
Urban dwellers are welcoming the new land reforms in Senegal. Photo: Scott Wallace/The World Bank 
The backbone regulatory document for land tenure regime in Senegal is a Decree dating back to 1932, before independence.

This Decree ensures security of tenure to beneficiaries through the issuance of an inalienable, permanent, title deed.

The land tenure system was subsequently supplemented by ad hoc legal and regulatory texts such as the 1964 National Domain Act, the provisions of the Civil Code and the 2001 Constitution, leaving the original Decree subject to varying interpretations in implementation.
 
The variety of additions and discrepancies in the interpretations made it necessary to revise the base text of the 1932 Decree into one Act that harmonises all the disparate elements introduced since independence.
 
However, the length and technicality of the Act’s text made it very difficult for ordinary citizens to understand. As a result, the reactions and interpretations from the general public, the press and political circles are far from uniform. Explanatory sessions and forums are being organised to better inform the public about the Act’s provisions and increase buy-in.
 
 
Transforming provisional land occupancy papers into permanent title deeds
 
This new Act has been widely welcomed by urban dwellers as it affects the status of land ownership of thousands of Senegalese in urban centres. The Act authorises the holders of temporary occupancy permits in urban centres to transform them, at no cost, into permanent title deeds (see text below).  With reinforced security of tenure, it is expected that the housing conditions of a large segment of urban citizens will improve.
 
Many neighbourhoods in Dakar could potentially experience rapid positive urban transformation as land occupants may now have access to mortgage loans and can easily trade their property on the formal land market.
 
The transformation of the affected areas, many of them in prime locations, would also have a positive impact in the urban economy, as the increase of housing construction will allow the surge of investment from household savings and commercial lending and also boost employment.
 

Read the text of the Acts in French

 
 
Contributed by Mamadou Diagne,
Cities Alliance Regional Advisor, West and Central Africa
 
 
Fast Facts on Urbanisation in Senegal
 
  • Total population: 12.81 million (State of African Cities Report 2010, UN-Habitat)
  • National Urban rate : 42.4 percent in 2007 (UN, World Urbanization Prospects, 2010), however other national sources put at 47 percent in 2009
  • Urban annual growth: 3.22 percent (UN, World Urbanization Prospects, 2010)
  • Population living in slums: 38.1 percent of the urban population (UN, World Urbanization Prospects, 2010)
  • Human development Index (HDI) ranking:  156 out of 174 listed countries ( PADMUR, PAD 2010)
  • Number of municipalities/communes (urban areas with elected city councilors): 156
  • Number of cities with population of over 10,000 inhabitants: 42 in 2000 and 59 in 2020 (projection)
  • No. of People living below poverty line:  51 percent (PADMUR PAD , 2010)
  • Capital city: Dakar, with 2.8 million habitants in 2010 (State of the World's Cities Report 2010, UN-Habitat) , i.e. 22 percent of the national population.

 

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