Francisco Noguera

Interview: Frank Pichel and Joseph Okyere on Unlocking Dead Capital through Land Titling

The lack of access to land and housing property rights has been deemed as one of the main obstacles to wealth creation and economic growth amongst low income populations. This is the area of focus of a project currently piloted by various private sector actors in Ghana, aimed at creating conditions under which assets can be financially leveraged by those in search of microcredits and other services.

Frank Pichel and Joseph Okyere wrote about this initiative and won the 2nd Prize at the recent Bop Essay Competition organized by the BoP Learning Lab’s base of the pyramid essay competition. I recently spoke to Frank Pichel and learned more about his and Joseph’s motivations to enter the competition as well as the prospects for their future and that of the project. Tell the audience a little about yourself – where you come from, your educational/professional background, etc.

Frank Pichel: I studied international business in the U.S. and have worked with with International Land Systems for about 4 years. Joseph, who wrote the essay with me, works for Opportunity International Savings and Loan of Ghana. When/where did you first hear about the idea of market-based approaches to poverty alleviation?

Frank Pichel: As someone with an education focused more on business than development, market-based approaches have always seemed to be more sustainable. Now, with a bit more experience in the development industry, it is more and more clear that development projects are often times quick fixes, and within a year or so of a project wrap up, the situation can quickly revert to its original form. What was your inspiration to write this essay?

Frank Pichel: My colleagues and I felt that we were doing something unique and with potential, so we welcomed the opportunity to have development professionals review and give feedback on the program. Is there a particular author or article that you consider “must-read” for the BoP community?

Frank Pichel: There is both a book and an article that I recommend to people interested in the relationship between property rights and development. The book is of course The Mystery of Capital by Hernando de Soto, and it goes a long way in revealing the tie between secure property rights and the ability to leverage assets financially.

We don’t look at our program as merely assisting people financially, however. An article from the Wall Street Journal by Matt Moffett (Nov. 9, 2005) best illustrates how security of ownership can lead to pride in ownership and affect people socially in many ways – from investing in home improvements, to landscaping, to having the security to devote time to education as opposed to constantly feel as if you must guard your turf. What was the most challenging part of the essay contest?

Frank Pichel: Without a doubt, trying to capture the details of the project and the problems of an incredibly complex land framework in Ghana, as well as the program’s effect on citizens, while limited to so few words. What’s next for the initiative you wrote about and for you as a professional?

Frank Pichel: We are currently looking at ways to expand the program throughout Ghana and hopefully turn it into something we can devote ourselves to on a full time basis.