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Rift Valley Institute

Making local knowledge work

Property and Freedom

Experiments in South Africa and around the world are combating poverty while expanding freedom by granting title to assets such as land and public housing. Building on the work of Dr. Hernando de Soto, these experiments seek to integrate poor people into the formal economy where they can access credit, loans and investment income. In addition and as means of redress for past injustice, the Western Cape is creating opportunities for poor people, women’s groups and other marginalized populations to own discounted stock on a vast scale. The thesis is: expanding the number of people with assets valued and leveraged in the formal economy empowers those people and augments their economic and social freedom.

On April 6 2015, Bard College and the Rift Valley Institute hosted a conference featuring leading academics, politicians, businessmen, and activists to ask the question: Are access to legal title and shifting assets the path to overcoming poverty in South Africa?


Paul Collier, Keynote Speaker, Professor of Economics and Public Policy in the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford
The Honorable Wilmot James, MP for the Democratic Alliance in South Africa and currently Shadow Minister of Health
Lewis Gordon, Nelson Mandela Visiting Professor in the Department of Politics & International Relations at Rhodes University in South Africa
Dr Thabane Vincent Maphai, Former Chairman of BHP Billiton
Drucilla Cornell, Professor of Women’s Studies and Political Science at Rutgers University

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