South Africa’s First Ever Blockchain-based Property Register Pilot

The Centre for Affordable Housing Finance in Africa (CAHF) (HousingFinanceAfrica.org), Seso Global and research consultancy 71Point4 have partnered to develop South Africa’s first blockchain-based property register. Note that the Pilot study area consists of almost 1000 properties that are located in 4 sites in Makhaza, Khayelitsha. Here, all the properties in question are Government-subsidised properties that have not yet been registered on Deeds Registry.

According to Daniel Bloch, CEO of Seso Global, this initiative will create the first ever blockchain-based property registry company in South Africa. In addition to creating an immutable record of who owns which house, the Seso Global platform also facilitates and record transactions such as transfers and sales out of deceased estates and integrates with third parties who facilitate transactions, counting mortgage lenders too.

Daniel Bloch, CEO of Seso Global, says: “For the time being, property owners will record these transactions at the Transaction Support Centre, a walk-in housing advice office created by CAHF and 71point4 located in the area. But over time, we will record transactions through the Seso app.” With this innovative system of doing things, the benefit of the blockchain solution is that it fully allows the data to be stored in a decentralized, secure database which can be updated at anytime without running the risk of experiencing any loss of historic data. This clearly means that there is what we can perceive as a secure, back-to-back record of all transactions that is completely tamper-proof. It is important to understand here that the vision would be to integrate this record into the Deeds Registry when other impediments to transfer have been removed.

It is without doubt that South Africa has a serious titling problem. According to Kecia Rust, CEO of CAHF, the government has built over three million RDP houses since democracy. But CAHF’s analysis of deeds office data indicates that only 1.9 million of these properties have been registered. The National Department of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation (NDHSWS) estimates that the title deed backlog for RDP properties built prior to 2014 currently stands at 511 752. Note that these properties were initially handed to beneficiaries, but no title deeds were registered for these transactions and handed over. At the same time, there is a backlog of 351 470 title deeds on newer properties.

Behold, registering these properties so long after they were built and handed over to subsidy beneficiaries is more of an administrative complex task to realize. In a good number of cases, original subsidy beneficiaries are no longer living in the properties. Some beneficiaries might have passed away, others might have sold their houses informally, and others might have tenants living in the properties.

Melzer, founder and lead consultant at 71point4, says: “To create a register of property owners we first had to go door to door to find out who lives in each property and to establish how they came to be there.”We hired a team of 17 enumerators and trained them to collect information and capture supporting documents. Thankfully we can leverage smartphone to collect the data, but it still requires a significant effort. It took us two months to cover these areas,” he added.

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