Ubutaka App: Rwanda’s Paperless Land Registration System Ready To Go

Nov 3, 2021 | Press

This article appeared on ktpress.rw.

Rwanda’s paperless land registration application dubbed ‘Ubutaka App’ has received high recommendations at the African Union level with a promise to disseminate it to other countries on the continent.

The Ubutaka App was developed by Medici Land Governance (MLG) in collaboration with the Rwanda Land Management and Use Authority (RLMUA) and the Rwanda Information Society Authority (RISA) to make land transfers by voluntary sale paperless and reduce the country’s carbon footprint.

The paperless or digital initiative is built on blockchain technology which collects land owners data such as fingerprints, signatures and legal approval to prevent malpractices that come with technology.
 

For instance, the system is built in a way that it records key authorizations and approvals on blockchain to prevent the double selling of land, impersonation of buyers and sellers, and the forgery of signatures.

How Ubutaka App’s system works

The application is integrated with existing infrastructure and existing 20 e-services on land transactions such as Irembo platform-a government e-services platform.

A user initiates a land transfer by voluntary sale in the Irembo. The data entered in Irembo is then pushed to Ubutaka, which notaries utilize to verify seller and buyer identities.

Notaries will compare buyer and seller photos with the National Identification Agency Database and collect buyer and seller signatures, fingerprints, and photos to verify identities and prevent the double-selling of land.

This information is encrypted to protect the privacy of citizens. The notary uses web-based Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) software to digitally sign all associated identity and purchase documents, and those documents are then transferred to LAIS, where the registrar reviews, approves and signs using PKI.

Upon final approval, the digital proofs of all transaction data, authorization by the notary, and approval by the registrar, are published to a public blockchain for future auditing purposes and irrefutable proof of transfer by all parties involved.

This system is the first of its kind in the world according to the developers- MLG, who managed to present, for the first time, the application functions during the opening ceremony of the Conference on Land Policy in Africa (CLPA 2021) that started on 1st and will run through 4th November 2021, in Kigali, Rwanda.

“The system is currently in its pilot project phase and has been tested on land owners in Gasabo district, with a plan to officially roll it out countrywide in 2022,” said Patrick Karera, Permanent Secretary in Ministry of Environment who led the demonstration.

“The long term plan is to reduce the country’s carbon footprint by shifting from paper land titles to e-titles as we already have a growing demand for digital services. However this will also reduce days of application from seven to one working day,” Karera explained.

According to Espérance Mukamana, the RLMUA Director-General, the full digitalization process is expected to be within three years.

KTPress learnt that so far 10million land titles have been registered.

Considering this progress in Rwanda land management and policy, Ambassador Josefa Sacko, the African Union Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development, Blue Economy and Sustainable Environment (ARBE) said that this initiative will be rolled out as a model to other African countries.

Areas of Concern

Mama Keita, the Director of the sub-regional office for east Africa of the United Nations economic commission for Africa stated that the development and implementation of land policies requires knowledge of the issues at all levels of society.

Keita said of utmost importance is harnessing good practices to secure land rights for women and youth, and to benefit from these opportunities and a need to share such knowledge among countries is critical, yet it is often hindered by the way the knowledge is packaged and disseminated.

“Here I want to commend the government of Rwanda for great efforts in securing land for women and also protecting landscapes for wildlife that forms the basis for a thriving tourism sector.

German ambassador Dr. Thomas Kutz said that there are still weak areas in land governance even when land is key to life and societal advancement.

He said that the German government has committed over €36million (from 2021-2024) in supporting land policy centers and skills development through joint program called Strengthening capacities for land governance in Africa (SLGA).