Beyond the Hype: Exploring Blockchain Technology in Land Administration: A Case Study of Ghana and Property Rights

Benjamin Lundstrøm Olsen

Student thesis: Master thesis

Abstract

Purpose/methodology/approach: This study uses a mixed-method approach comprised of qualitative and quantitative data to assess whether blockchain technology can resolve some of the issues in the land administration system in Ghana that weakens land and property rights. By reviewing data and interviewing key stakeholders, this exploratory case study will also aid in providing a realistic depiction of the potential and limitation of blockchain technology in land administration in a development setting. An inductive pragmatic approach to the topic was chosen incorporating both positivist and interpretivist perspectives to analyze and discuss the findings of this study.
Findings: Private (permissioned) blockchains was found to have significant advantages in lowering the likelihood of corruption, in particular document forgery and fraud and in alleviating the extent of bribery. Further, the lack of governance over local land-administrative structures could be alleviated by introducing a distributed Proof-of-Authority consensus mechanism that enables multiple stakeholders to audit the registry process thus ensuring transparency and immutability for all parties.
However, Ghana’s weak institutional framework and the limited political influence and reach of the central government in rural areas is a major impediment for a blockchain-based solution to be viable today. Ghana’s government would need to address the substantial legislative, structural and cultural hurdles that diminishes tenure security for their citizens, primarily those living in communities situated in peri-urban and rural Ghana. Critical prerequisites such as orthophoto-mapping for land demarcation and digitalization of records are missing in Ghana which strongly diminishes the potential for blockchain technology to be utilized in land registration, because it would result in inadequate recordings stored on the blockchain. Second, emphasis must be put on the educational aspect of land rights; as stated by both case-companies interviewed, informing the land-owning community of their rights to land and the impact of having written agreements is paramount to changing attitudes in the society. The push to change customary practices must come from within as the communities cannot be forced to register their land. Last, land records only provide security to people if backed by legal enforcement and a political will to uphold such rights. To secure land and property rights in Ghana, effort must be allocated to all three mentioned pillars to be successful.
Originality/value: This paper contributes an original analysis of the application of blockchain technology in Ghana’s land administration system and expands on the scarce existing academic literature on blockchain usecases.

EducationsMSc in International Business, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
LanguageEnglish
Publication date2018
Number of pages111