Kenya’s online platform, the National Land Information Management System (NLIMS), dubbed “Ardhisasa”, is now live. But Kenyans are yet to appreciate how momentous this is. It is a game-changer. The journey has been arduous.
It started in earnest during the sunrise years of President Mwai Kibaki’s tenure, when Amos Kimunya was the Lands minister. But no meaningful progress had been made till now.
This is not unusual in Africa. Many factors hinder the development of such systems, including lack of political goodwill, enabling resources or institutional capacity.
Sometimes there’s outright sabotage from those anxious of transparent and efficient land management systems because opaque and inefficient ones serve their nefarious needs.
Indeed, were it not for the commitment and resolve by the President and the Lands Cabinet Secretary Farida Karoney, perhaps the “Ardhisasa” initiative would have stalled.
Lessons from elsewhere inform that it takes such high-level champions for transformative land information management systems such as this to be put in place.
So what should Kenyans expect from “Ardhisasa”?
First, this system will be developed incrementally, as is always the case. The first phase focused on land records for Nairobi City County.
Reportedly, 240,000 Nairobi County land parcels have been uploaded in the first phase. Timelines have it that records for 20 other counties will be uploaded by December this year, and the rest by the end of year 2022.
Since enabling land laws were recently amended to support the signing, submission, processing and even paying government fees electronically, the system will be able to accept requests for routine land transactions.
Users can lodge and track the progress of their transactions without having to visit the offices. Official searches, transfer of property and payment of annual land revenues will be done online. One should also be able to purchase a survey plan online.
It’s expected that the system will enhance efficiency and reduce transaction time. By eliminating physical interactions, it’ll reduce opportunities for rent-seeking. The net result will be increased speed of doing business and increased government revenue.
So, we should expect improved turnaround times in compensation of acquired land for public projects, lending against property, administration of mortgages, approval of development applications and the registration of new housing units.
Individuals, professionals and companies will be expected to register.
There are concerns too.
Propertied senior citizens unschooled on digital platforms are apprehensive that their property details may be exposed to third parties as they seek help. This is valid and should be addressed.
Furthermore, digital systems are as good as their operators. Therefore, those responsible for “Ardhisasa” must be highly vetted, competent and patriotic. They must be bound to a strong internal code of ethics.
Overall, this system is good for Kenya, any initial flaws or setbacks notwithstanding.
Mr Mwathane is the chair, Land Development and Governance Institute. [email protected]