Cameroon is part of a global trend towards large-scale investments in infrastructure, agriculture, extractive industries, industrial facilities and real estate that are displacing many people. Deeming these projects in the public interest, governments often acquire land by expropriating locally-held land rights. But compulsory land acquisition has severe economic, social and cultural impacts for families and communities. And disputes brought by legitimate landholders can delay or undermine projects, potentially causing losses to commercial operators or failing to deliver the intended public good.
Many countries have old-fashioned expropriation rules, ill-suited to addressing the challenges involved. But Cameroon is well-placed to learn from and harness best practice: the ongoing process to reform legislation on compulsory acquisition is an opportunity to develop an effective system that both protects land rights and facilitates developments that are genuinely in the public interest.