Fortune-hunting and land banking in the countryside


For businesses – such as D. K. T. Djokoto & Co ­– and individuals passionate about land banking, accurate statistics remains a vital aspect in reaching informed decisions about potential property investments. In search of a fitting headquarters for our old-fashioned multi-disciplinary advisory — laser-focused on rural development within the Keta district — I discovered a forlorn antiquated building, beguilingly branded: ‘Nigeria House’, along the narrow and lonesome asphalt-paved roadside of Tegbi, nearby a vegetable farm.

At the time, the Keta Municipal Assembly had insufficient details about the derelict property, which, languishing in the façade of its past glory, had deteriorated into a shadow of its former self. The Keta District remains one of Ghana’s prime locations for a variety of similar historic pre-independence buildings, and other centuries-old properties.

It is already quite a baffling reality that even the Land Registry does not possess an up-to-date figure as to the total percentage of registered land in Ghana. But for the Keta’s Municipal Assembly, this should not be the case. If a business tourist should travel 115 miles from the global city of Accra to the ancient commercial capital of the Aŋlɔ State, and spots a fine opportunity for investment — whether land, residential or commercial property — the local authority had better be in a position to readily assist.

Perhaps, the Land Registry should decentralise information and give us the option to request information from Trade and Industry Departments at municipal or metropolitan assemblies. This would ease pressure on its central office in Accra, or any of the Regional Offices, too. And that is precisely why local authorities nation-wide require minimalist, eco-conscious infrastructure with adequate technological equipment to enable municipal or metropolitan assembly employees competently compile as well as maintain, reliable digital records on property within their respective districts. Add to this, it will guarantee swifter responses to any enquiries from estate agents or conveyancers.

These measures will combat issues, such as fraud; and help foster an enabling commercial environment for devoted investors with ready-cash and their couterie of advisers, especially for those unfamiliar with the local business terrain or dialects, such as Aŋlɔ, to decide whether or not to proceed with such a transaction.

Also, experiences like mine underscore the urgent need for rural districts to produce and retain home-grown conveyancers for the purposes of in-person accessibility. This is evidenced by an exclusive local demand from a select-clientele of constituents and other buyers, usually looking to secure mortgage offers from banks or building societies on reasonable and fair terms.

While district assembly officials, conveyancers and business advisers have a collective role to play in growing the local economy, the bank is perhaps the most important institution. A district without a resilient and responsible rural bank as the cornerstone for an ecosystem of trade is like a body without a healthy heart to pump blood; it wouldn’t function properly. The rural bank is the axis around which countryside Ghana can spin itself into a flourishing urban society.

Its vibrant banking halls are an ideal hub for getting on with business; and its vaults are not solely for cash or the storage of precious items, but also serve as strong rooms for sensitive documents pertaining to property transactions.

For many Ghanaians, and Keta constituents for that matter, owning a respectable house or retail shop is a life-time aspiration. It provides a sense of security the rental sector does not, and empowers many to start a new family or build a business. But a majority of first-time homebuyers lack funds, and would need mortgage finance. To generate sustainable wealth for households and enterprises, financial institutions remain the driving force. District assemblies equally have a duty to support residents fund property purchase through government schemes, such as equity loans.

As far as mortgage is concerned, Islamic finance has a critical role to play in wealth creation for Ghanaians. Its global market is already worth an estimated US$1tn. Perhaps, it’s about time for Ghana to delve deep into it. It offers both the Ijara and Murabaha schemes. For the former, the bank can purchase the property and lease it to the customer. At the end of the lease, the bank agrees to transfer the property to the buyer. And for the latter, the bank purchases the property and resells it to the customer for profit. Unlike other loan requirements, sharia-compliant Islamic mortgages do not incur the payment of interest.

But to achieve meaningful change, financial products or government schemes must plan a far-reaching and inclusive criteria for lending based on the complex realities of a Ghanaian constituent.

Meanwhile, a compelling incentive for fortune-hunting young professionals seeking privileged opportunities in countryside Ghana is that: if you’re a white-collar employee at a profitable rural-based corporation, there’s a chance you may receive a mortgage from your firm at a significantly lower interest rate than what the open market offers. On the other hand, it’ll be a head-splitting dilemma if you suddenly wish to ditch the job should a better opening come around, since employers would withdraw their concessionary rates.

>>>the author, an Aŋlɔ royal, is Managing Partner at D. K. T. Djokoto & Co, a multi-disciplinary boutique firm which, since 1950, has provided sincere guidance on commerce, real estate, public relations, and political strategy to selected traditional royal houses, blue-chip businesses, high net-worth individuals and governments.

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