Sèmè-Podji is a town in the Ouémé department, south-eastern Benin. The latter currently has a paper-based land registration system that does not cover the six districts. The city therefore faces a crucial challenge regarding the allocation of title to property and land administration, as landowners cannot easily access their titles and public services do not have access to data to carry out their services well.

By joining the ASToN network, the municipality seeks to solve the problem of land registration due to its impact on a wide range of activities: the addressing system, tax collection, etc. Its improvement would also guarantee a better quality of life for citizens and more transparency for elected officials and public activities.

Sémé Podji in figures

  • Population: 400 000 inhabitants (2020)
  • Surface area: 250 km²
  • Population density: 1 600/km²
  • Local authority budget: 5 billion CFA
  • Smartphone penetration rate: 60-80 %
  • Internet access rate: 40-60 %
Ahomadikpohou Landry , ASToN Local Coordinator, Sèmè-Podji
« It’s not just a flagship project. Implementing [smart city projects] will impact many other services. »

What does the city mean by “smart city”?

For Sèmè-Podji, a smart city is one where better living conditions are offered to the population by the improvement of public services through their demate- rialisation. A smart city also brings the administration closer to its citizens.

Focus area for ASToN

Land registry

Sèmè-Podji’s chosen policy area is Land registry

Sèmè-Podji currently has a paper-based system for land registry, which doesn’t cover all six arrondissements. A fundamental challenge for the city surrounds land titling and the administration of land, because land owners cannot easily access their titles and public services don’t have access to the data needed to conduct their services.
The old system of archiving land registration is therefore blocking progress in the development of public services that could ameliorate the quality of life of Sèmè-Podji’s citizens. Land registry is a priority for Sèmè-Podji because the local authority sees registering land as an enabler for a wide range of activ- ities, including the collection of taxes (“le foncier touche à tout”). It would ensure a better quality of life of citizens and ensure greater transparency for elected representatives and public activities.
For Sèmè-Podji, accurate and retrievable land registration data is associated with the securing of property rights and reduction of fraudulent transactions, for guaranteeing loans for businesses, payment of bank and city taxes, and contributing to neighbourhood peace because personal conflicts often occur surrounding the ownership of land.

Findings: the starting point for addressing these problems

The following findings set out the starting point for Sèmè-Podji as they work to address Land registration. Based on research conducted over the course of Phase 1, they describe the interlinked strengths and challenges that need to be taken into account.

Sèmè-Podji has not completed many digital projects and has yet to finalise a digital transformation plan

Sèmè-Podji is only just developing its approach to digital transformation, which has seemingly been directed towards the introduction of “Seme City” in 2021. Up to now, the city has not completed a significant digital transfor- mation project.

Investment in Sèmè City is not matched by investment in the local authority

The city as a whole has growing investment, particularly as a result of the Sèmè City project, however the lack of resources available to the town hall itself presents a significant challenge.

While there is high commitment from the mayor, there is some reluctance of public servants to engage in the project

There is willingness of the city mayor to forge new relationships and high commitment from municipal authority executives. This is contrasted with the low capacity and willingness of members of the town hall to engage in digital projects.

Skills and equipment surrounding digital are lacking

There exists low internal skills, competences and equipment to manage digi- tal projects, and external competences and equipment are also relatively low whilst the digital foundations are still being put into place.

The city has a clearly defined problem area that can be addressed as one of its first digital projects

The city authority has a clearly defined problem area, which is a well thought- through starting point and has the potential to unlock further avenues for other digital services that can be built on top of a land registry once it has been completed.