NAIROBI/ACCRA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – On a recent Saturday afternoon, Joseph Njuguna received a worrying call. Without his permission, someone was excavating a small piece of land he had bought six years ago.

When he reached the site he found an excavator digging up soil, and two yellow Tata trucks waiting to ferry it away. Njuguna stopped them, but that did not prevent the “new landowner” from claiming he had legal title to the plot in Utawala, about 26 km (16 miles) east of Kenya’s capital Nairobi.

“I asked for the title and he couldn’t produce it. But he still claimed the plot was his,” Njuguna told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Cases of double ownership of land are common in Kenya, where cartels collude with officials to create parallel titles for parcels of land they want to acquire illegally, experts said. But that could change if a new crop of African startups succeeds in using blockchain, the technology behind bitcoin, to create foolproof digital land registries.

Governments and businesses around the world are exploring ways to store data, such as contracts and assets, in blockchains – which are ledgers of digital transactions – amid rapidly growing investor interest. Countries including Honduras, Georgia and Rwanda have signed deals to build blockchain-based land-titling systems, where information is stored in immutable digital registries and cross-checked by a network of computer users. Read more from…

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