Whilst there are many general issues of land tenure, land titling and cadastral processes requiring reform in Djibouti, the key issue affecting tens of thousands of poor people is security of tenure in both informal dwellings and formal dwellings without any tenure rights.
People in such circumstances face eviction and demolition, even though they may have been resident for many years. For this reason investment is curtailed and this depresses the economy unnecessarily.
For those in informal dwellings – often tin shacks – demolition of whole neighbourhoods does occur, and that is one reason why such dwellings are of a temporary nature or even portable. In addition, many such areas have no infrastructure – electricity, water or sanitation, or paved paths or roads.
Whilst conditions are often appalling, the government sees such communities as ‘illegal’ (and subject to being moved on from time to time) despite their right to live in Djibouti as citizens or refugees.
The key problem is that under current policies they will remain as ‘illegal’ communities in perpetuity.
Addressing the first problem is an administrative issue. Accepting that most people without tenure will never be moved, a policy can be adopted for granting title to those who have lived in a dwelling for a sufficient period of time. This is administratively cumbersome but the economic and social benefits are very substantial – people invest in their dwellings and enjoy better security. In time, assets can be used as collateral and hence this stimulates ‘distributed growth’ and the banking sector.
Informal dwellings are relatively easily transformed into formal dwellings with all the economic and social benefits which accrue. This can be undertaken at low cost per family.
It is proposed that investment be made in the construction of apportioned, walled plots along paved roads, in small groups in order to avoid recreating huge shanty communities. With tenure secured and basic infrastructure available, plot-holders can then invest in their own dwellings – modest at first but more established later.
With this approach a relatively small amount of money can be used to transform large informal shanty communities into growing and prospering urban and peri-urban areas. Such an approach has proven successful in Brazil and other countries.
Getting things done
Key to the success of these schemes is a general awareness amongst the very poor of the large scale of the project, to avoid corruption and ‘rationing’.