What you need to know about how non-ugandans could own land or properties in Uganda
There is no any thing in Ugandan law prohibits non-citizens from owning land in Uganda. For most developers, a 99 year lease often affords them more sufficient time to develop property, recoup their investments and turn a profit. The 1995 constitution grants land rights solely to citizens of Uganda. Foreigners can't own freehold land,mailo land and customary in Uganda. They may however ,obtain leases for 49 or 99 years. Foreign investors, individuals or corporates can acquire land through renting/lease from citizens or government.
Louise Glickman said "The best investment on earth is earth" That statement still holds true to this date. Wars have been fought; partnerships hewn; and laws written and repealed, all to determine who can have which piece of earth on what terms.
The previous years, Uganda's court of Appeal affirmed the statutory position that non citizens cannot own land in Uganda except under leasehold tenure. That sounds straight enough though there is more here. Most cases for foreigners, it is a company that owns land and here i will give an example of the court case between Biyinzika Enterprises limited and two others vs Biyinzika farmers Limited the court made it clear that a foreign company, like an individual non-citizen, cannot own land under mailo tenure (and by implication freehold and customary tenure). while this doesnot seem vivid to talk about, the court went on to explain that a foreign company for purpose of land law in uganda, is one whose articles of association(constitution) do not contain a restriction on transfer of shares in the company to a foreigner, despite the majority ownership of the company being held by Ugandans. The reasoning underlying such a decision is the affirmation of the legislative intention to ensure that the domestic market remains more affordable for a country's own citizens.The Biyinzika court case emphasises that the law tries to avert the possibility of a company owned by Ugandans acquiring freehold or mailo land and then changing ownership to become a foreign company, there bypassing the legislative restriction against foreigners owning land under those tenures. This well meaning policy embedded in Uganda's Land Act is not unique to Uganda as nearly 40% of the countries in the world have restrictions on foreign ownership of land.
How could foreign companies or individuals own properties (land) in Uganda?
Individuals or foreign companies can buy land like any other citizen but the difference is they cannot posses mailo land or freehold or customary land title of that particular property or land in question but only leasehold certificate. The laws asks that for private mailo or freehold title should be acquired by the Ugandan citizen or Ugandan company, it derives from the constitution that all land belongs to the Ugandan citizens. The foreigners can own companies here without having to have Ugandan shareholders( This requirement is not there at all in the constitution of Uganda). Secondly sometimes, a foreign investor may want options that are inhibited by being restricted to having a lease. For such an investor, joint venture arrangements with local freehold and mailo land owners offer apt alternatives. The land ownership in such cases remains in the local joint venture partner who is bound to hold it for whatever purpose has been set out in the Joint Venture Agreement.
Other possible arrangements such as establishing collective investement schemes known as Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITS) monitored by the Capital markets Authority are availble avenues for a foreign investor interested in participating in Uganda's real estate sector, not withstanding the restriction on ownership of land other than by leasehold. Rather than that its not possible for a foreigne corporate or individuals to fully own a freehold, private mailo or customary land in Uganda today. At Sparta properties we provide every foreign individual or corporate all the necessary expertise and procedural steps to and how a foreigner could own land or buy properties in Uganda.