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Innovation - Urbanisation and property rights

The proportion of the world’s urban population is expected to increase from 47% in 2000 to about 57% by 2050. More than 90% of future population growth will be accounted for by the large cities in the developing countries. In the developing world, Africa has experienced the highest urban growth during the last two decades at 3.5% per year and this rate of growth is expected to continue into 2050.
This study aims to analyse the interactions between the process of urbanisation and land tenure arrangements, land governance and tenure security in peri-urban areas, particularly in smaller urban centres, looking particularly at recent experience in Ghana and Tanzania.
The study will focus on the following four questions:

  1. What are the trends in urbanisation and the transformation of rural land to urban land in Sub-saharan Africa, particularly in the case of rural towns? What are the concepts and definitions of urbanisation that underpin the data on such trends?
  2. What are the implications of such changes for the rights of those involved in the transitions, particularly poor and vulnerable people, for holders of existing tenure rights, and the administration of those rights, particularly where the institutional mandate for administering rights changes as areas are reclassified from rural to urban areas? What are their options to assert their rights?
  3. What impact do these changes have on the livelihoods and poverty levels of those affected?
  4. How could donors and African governments respond to this? What needs to change in thinking to enable funding of transformative support that supports economic development —  specifically a sustainable process of urbanisation — while acknowledging the existing rights of people and empowering them to assert these rights to overcome poverty and secure sustainable livelihoods?

The study will include two case studies: Ghana and Tanzania. Both of these countries are experiencing rapid urbanisation (Wenban-Smith, 2014). Indeed, Tanzania is one of a handful of countries that is likely to account for the majority of new urban dwellers (Lucci 2014) and it is expected that by 2030, more than 20 million Tanzanians will live in urban areas (Lugoe 2008). In both of these countries, the peri-urban areas have experienced a collision of customary and modern/formal land tenure and administration systems, with challenges in managing the transition.


Giles Henley

Supported by

  1. Urbanisation, land and property rights

    Research reports