DIGITIZATION OF LAND TRANSACTIONS IN KENYA THE WAKE OF COVID-19 PANDEMIC
While digitization had gained momentum before covid-19 the same should not be lost as we all stand to benefit in the end of it to fast track land transactions
By Wambui Babu
We are here in the fourth phase of industrial revolution with the increased use of technology in robotics, artificial intelligence e.t.c. Has the novel coronavirus (covid-19) nudged us to spring here faster than anticipated? Well, the point is we are here and we have to make do with the situation and act as fast as we can to handle the negative implications in the sector and economy at large. On matters real estate and land transactions, we need to be on the fourth gear on the land record digitization program and progress. For instance, many financial transactions in Kenya are pegged on land securities and thereby making the digital process a key player on most financial transactions going forward.
We have witnessed how fast the special issue, legislative supplemental No. 26, legal notice no. 46 in the Public Health Act (Cap) 242) dated 3rd April, 2020 on prevention, control and suppression of covid-19 was promptly enacted. It is with this speed, that all other dependent laws that are affected during this time should be dispensed with. It is time to take advantage and deal with the ‘cartels’ situation that has previously dogged efforts at the Ministry of Lands to streamline the digitization program causing a menace on land matters. Speed is of the essence and also bringing in stakeholders together with the effort to necessitate this.
On March 19th, 2020 we witnessed the presidential assent to the Business Laws (Amendment) Bill of 2019 that aims at enhancing and easing the way we conduct business by recognizing electronic signatures. Amongst the laws that shall be affected once this is passed as law is the Land Registration Act no. 6 of 2012. This will have a major revolutionary turn in how the land registries conduct business and the sooner the processes are digitized the better. There seems to be a lag on the implementation of the laws when it comes to land matters and this is an issue that needs URGENT attention in light of the covid-19 pandemic.
We have also witnessed various sectors and departments giving guidelines on how to conduct business in the new dispensation the same needs to be evidenced in the land record transactions. For instance, government services such as Business Registration Services which entail registration of companies, Limited Liability Partnerships and Business Names (Sole Proprietorships) are currently ongoing smoothly due to the fact that the services were digitized as early as 2015 and mobile money payment authorized to pay for the various services. Similarly, we have witnessed the Judiciary issuing guidelines and measures to reduce the impact of COVID19 on court operations by allowing for Rulings, Judgments and Filing of cases to be conducted online.
Consequently, it is imperative that those endowed with the responsibilities to make decisions with regard to Land transactions in Kenya wake up and do so in order to oil the wheels in the financial sector.
While hastening the processes let us keep in mind that in making land records digitally available to all, there are more wholesome gains than deductions e.g. reduces land and property frauds, which is one of the objectives of the government, improves transparency in the land record maintenance system, record keeping and minimizing land disputes, digitizing maps and surveys, more accountability in terms of revenue generated for government.
With the pending amendments in electronic signature recognition the turn-around-time to complete land transactions will be minimal reducing time spent on acquiring financial securities, development approvals with a long term achievement being making property prices more attractive because of the ease of doing business.