In June 2012, Rwanda’s national land registry completed a nearly four-year project that mapped every one of the country’s 10.4 million parcels and prepared title documents for 8 million landholders. It was an unprecedented accomplishment in a country in which lack of land titling had weighed on the economy and led to escalating conflict over access to land. The mapping program promised to reduce tensions by establishing an orderly system for registering and transferring landownership. However, the system could work only if Rwandans registered every transaction, and in 2012, a survey found that only about one of every eight landowners had even bothered to pick up their official titles. The registry urgently had to both make it easier to register transactions and build public awareness about the importance of keeping the land database up-to-date. A registry team launched a nationwide campaign to raise awareness about the importance of titling and of reporting all land transactions. Managers simplified procedures and registration forms. And to provide greater access in rural areas, where titling was nearly unknown, the registry decentralized services and introduced a new software platform to speed transactions. By mid 2017, more than 7 million people had collected their titles, and registrations of sales, purchases, and other kinds of transfers had begun to improve. Still, the number of transactions reported in 2016 fell short of the registry’s target, indicating that further work lay ahead.
Leon Schreiber drafted this case study based on interviews conducted in Kigali, Musanze, and Huye, Rwanda, in June and July 2017. Fortunee Bayisenge, Lecturer and Dean of the Faculty of Development Studies at the Protestant Institute of Arts and Social Sciences, collaborated on the research. The British Academy-Department for International Development AntiCorruption Evidence (ACE) Program funded the development of this case study. Case published September 2017.