Kenya played host to a key continental meeting organised by the African Land Policy Centre (ALPC) just before Covid-19 struck. I was actually pleasantly surprised that participants from all around Africa made it, despite signs that passenger flights would soon cease.
Unlike most other ALPC meetings, this wasn’t about thematic land policy issues. This meeting was about knowledge and knowledge sharing through University training. It was about urging training institutions to shed status quo and review their curricula in land governance at an early moment. This matter, whose basics I discussed in an earlier contribution, is easier said than done. Think about it, why should a University don strain to revisit contents of curricula modules which have always seemingly served well? Yet this doesn’t serve self-interests!
But there’s a compelling case. Africa’s needs are now different; they shifted from the colonial ones. Africa needs to feed itself. It needs to reduce and resolve land conflicts. It needs to embrace equity in the sharing and access to land resources. Women and men have rights to land, cultural practices notwithstanding. Climate change and environmental degradation must inform our land use practices.
The congestion, pollution and conflicting land uses in our urban areas call for more innovative planning solutions. Out in rural Africa, communities can no longer watch investors harness their land without a stake in the benefits. Then we need to effectively harness today’s technology to reduce time and costs of doing business. It’s a wide menu of new and emerging issues. And now with Covid-19, land-related concerns will emerge. Land experts will be expected to put these into a land rights perspective too.
Therefore, graduates keen on Africa’s land governance industry must beware that the market shifted. It calls for skill sets quite different from the traditional. No one wants just measurers to distances and values of land. No one needs graduates to oversee mere land allocation. No one needs planners rich on methodology that served previous epochs when urban populations were low and competition for land insignificant. Today’s industry needs folks with degrees responsive to a wide range of practical issues. Today’s universities must therefore aspire to offer pragmatic skill sets, besides fundamentals in numerics, measurement science and land economy.
So I was quite happy to see Jomo Kenyatta University of Science and Technology, Kenyatta University, Dedan Kimathi University of Technology and the Technical University of Kenya represented in the eminent forum. Universities from Southern, Central, Western and Northern Africa were represented too. That the Vice-Chancellor of Dedan Kimathi University of Technology, Prof Ndirangu Kioni, made the keynote remarks underscored the importance of the event to academia.
The diverse local and continental participation was good evidence that Africa’s effort to rally universities and other institutions of higher learning to address curricula gaps was finally bearing fruit. This event was meant to sensitise dons from the Universities with information on a curricula guide recently endorsed by the African Union for the purpose.