Property Rights for the World’s Poor
In poor nations like Ghana, it can be incredibly difficult for citizens to attain property rights. The lack of services to provide landowners with deeds and official paperwork poses a challenge in providing proof of ownership for the land they occupy. Bitland is an innovative nonprofit company that uses blockchain technology to help secure property rights for the world’s poor.

Land Rights in Ghana

Ghana uses largely informal land distribution processes. People inherit land from extended family, through membership of a certain clan or through traditional authority. These landowners do not typically keep written documentation of land transactions and ownership. Therefore, tracking proper ownership of land becomes difficult. A lack of adequate formal documentation of land ownership and previous transactions creates an informal land market, which in turn creates land conflict, lawsuits and multiple ownership claims of a plot of land.

Bitland in Ghana

African startup Bitland uses blockchain technology to help Ghanaians attain property rights and secure more financially stable futures. The startup launched its pilot service in Ghana due to a local need for autonomy through improved land rights. The CEO and founder of the company, Naringamba Mwinssubo, is also a resident of Ghana. Bitland’s main goal is to provide land registry services where they are functioning poorly, or where no land registry and title services available to locals.

Bitland operates in three key phases: land survey, preparation of titles and land registry and land tokenization. During the land survey phase, the company leaves approximately 30 markers with members of the local community. The community members then place the markers in agreed-upon spots to mark boundaries between individual plots of land. Survey markers placed during this phase serve as landmarks of property boundaries.

In the second phase, land registry, blockchain creates titles for the land. The titles are prepared by verifying the GPS coordinates of the land with the owners of the land. Once the coordinates are verified, the company creates a land title contract that includes owner names, GPS coordinates, map references, block numbers and addresses. This information then receives a timestamp and stored in a database.

In the land tokenization phase, the land titles and accompanying files are turned into a token that is both tradeable and traceable. Various parties use these tokens when making land transactions such as renting and buying/selling. The traceable nature of these tokens makes them an ideal choice for ensuring security and transparency between potential buyers, sellers and renters.

Impact on the Ground

Bitland’s services provide consumers with greater security and transparency when it comes to property rights for the world’s poor. The service also helps document marriages, birth certificates, escrow accounts and mutual savings. As of 2018, Bitland had plans to expand its land registry services to Kenya and Nigeria. The unalterable nature of blockchain records is key to building credit for users and helping them secure a more financially stable future. By allowing landowners to rely on digital traceable records rather than verbal customary agreements, Bitland is establishing strong property rights for the world’s poor and improving their economic outlook for the future.

Maddi Miller
Photo: Flickr

Using Digital Land Registry to Fight Poverty
Land ownership rights and property titles are among the most critical yet inaccessible resources in developing countries. Property titles act as legitimate assets, allowing individuals to borrow important loans. However, corrupt recordkeeping practices in many countries make it difficult to prove land ownership. Without a legal title to property, it is impossible to access these financial tools and improve one’s economic standing. More than 90% of rural land on the African continent is unregistered. In India, legal ownership of land is a higher predictor of poverty than the literacy rate. In 2010, the value of unclaimed properties around the world, or “dead capital” was estimated to be $10 trillion. Today, that number has almost doubled. To efficiently provide legal property titles, a group entrepreneurs developed a way to provide digital land registry so people can have access to the.


Bitland, a nonprofit founded by a group of entrepeneurs from the U.S., Denmark and Ghana, has introduced an innovative digital land registration system. It combines transaction records with GPS data and satellite photography to accurately document land borders and ownership. The organization utilizes blockchain technology to address land registry issues because of its low operational cost and high levels of transparency.

By serving as an intermediary between government officials and citizens who want to register land titles, the organization establishes transparency and ensures data integrity. The organization stores transactions simultaneously in multiple places throughout the blockchain, making them nearly impossible to alter. Prioritizing data security from the beginning stages makes it possible to automate the entire land registration process and streamline information flow to the system of records.

Since many developing regions lack stable infrastructure and access to electricity, Bitland plans to implement solar-powered centers and Wi-Fi hubs. These centers will also offer educational resources to locals wanting to increase their knowledge and involvement with the project.

Bitland in Ghana

Bitland began testing the system in Kumasi, a city in southern Ghana. Like many developing countries, Ghana faces corrupt administration in the public sector which creates significant obstacles for those registering their land. Nepotism and poor infrastructure perpetuate property disputes, often at the expense of citizens. Approximately 78% of land in Ghana is unregistered, preventing thousands of people from accessing their capital and securing finances for basic needs like housing, food and running water.

Bitland plans to expand its services further across the African continent over the next five years. A secure digital land registry system will help to democratize property ownership and unlock land capital.

Long-term Benefits

Advances in digital registry technology can help to improve the living conditions of many people in developing countries. In combination with progressive social policies, it has the potential to promote economic opportunity and well-being. Farmers and small business owners can benefit from the financial tools a comprehensive and functional land registry system unlocks. These systems can also aid in natural disaster recovery and relief, as well as solving land disputes which are typically handled solely by government entities.

Bitland is working to make its platform available to regions with nonexistent or poorly functioning land registry and title services. These efforts reinforce the United Nations’ outlined Sustainable Development Goals, which include eradicating poverty and providing inclusive employment and economic growth for all. Untapped property rights undermine the progress being made towards these goals. Through a combination of innovative digital land registry processes and community-based education programs, Bitland aims to mitigate corruption and bring transparency to land ownership.

 – Sylvie Antal
Photo: Flickr