Evaluation of innovative land tools in sub-Saharan Africa: Three cases from a peri-urban context

Paul van Asperen

Research output: ThesisPhD Thesis - Research external, graduation external

12 Citations (Scopus)
35 Downloads (Pure)


Introduction: Sub-Saharan Africa is urbanizing at a rapid pace. A major problem is that countries lack appropriate tools to manage this urban growth. When governments fail to deliver plots suitable for development, citizens will access land by informal routes and thereby become vulnerable to eviction. The ensuing fear of eviction might prevent them from improving their housing, while the informal status of the settlement does not allow the government to provide services. This thesis presents an analysis of various methods to upgrade informal land to a formal status. One of the main aims of formalization is to reduce poverty. Poverty levels in sub-Saharan Africa are among the world’s
highest: 52% of the population lives on an income below the poverty line of USD 1.25 a day. Although the majority of Africa’s poor live in rural areas, poverty will increase in urban areas due to the high rates of urbanization. This urban expansion will be largely concentrated in peri-urban areas. Application of land tools in peri-urban areas Peri-urban areas are dynamic and heterogeneous, both in time and space. One of the main characteristics of peri-urban areas in sub-Saharan Africa is the co-existence of multiple tenure regimes. This can partly be attributed to the history of the region. Most countries have dual tenure systems: customary and statutory. Customary tenure systems are the indigenous tenure systems. Statutory tenure systems were introduced by the colonial powers and have been maintained after independence. Customary tenure systems are inherently dynamic because they adapt to changing circumstances such as urbanization. When people fail to access land through one of the tenure systems, they find alternative pathways, which lead to informal tenure. Informal or customary land access is predominant in peri-urban Africa. Some customary practices, notably the sale of customary land, are disputed from a theoretical
perspective but occur frequently. Both tenure systems are generally regarded as insecure, meaning that land holders are liable to eviction. During last century, land administration approaches from developed countries were introduced, i.e., statutory tenure
systems. They largely failed to reduce poverty because people who are better off financially benefitted more from these interventions than the poor. Therefore, pro-poor and innovative land tools became popular. One of the main proponents of such tools, the Global Land Tool Network, defines land tools as practical ways to solve a problem in land administration and management by putting principles, policies and legislation into effect. The problem in ques-
[ 276 ] tion for peri-urban areas amounts to tenure insecurity. This study distinguishes
conventional land tools from innovative tools. The former refers to the Western land administration systems, also called land titling; the latter refers to tools that are pro-poor. However, it is as yet unknown whether these innovative tools will provide tenure security for the poor. If they fail completely or in part to improve tenure security, the poor will be marginalized and risk remaining trapped in poverty. The central, all-encompassing question of this thesis is as follows: How can innovative land tools be evaluated and improved to
provide tenure security for the poor in peri-urban areas in sub-Saharan Africa? This
question is answered by designing an evaluation framework and carrying out the evaluation on material from three case studies. Innovative land tools Four main types of innovative land tools are distinguished: legal framework tools, tenure tools, institutional framework tools and operational tools. Legal framework tools consist of statutory, administrative and judicial systems
such as laws, regulations, bylaws, court decisions, directions and instructions
that regulate society and set enforcement processes. Some of the legal framework
tools consist of tenure tools. These define the land management arrangements at the regional level through the land management authorities
and also at the individual level, where they are used to allocate and administer land rights. Accordingly, two types of tenure tools are distinguished: area tools to manage multiple tenure systems; and individual tools to manage the allocation and administration of individual land rights. Institutional framework tools relate to all land management institutions involved in land allocation and administration, being governmental, community or private institutions. Some institutional framework tools are operational land administration tools. They concern the methods applied to administer the plots and to survey their boundaries and thereby support the application of the tenure tools.
The evaluation framework The evaluation framework consists of three compound criteria, namely equity, effectiveness and efficiency. These are broken down into ten criteria and
nineteen indicators. The criteria and indicators have been defined in light of the available literature on the evaluation of land administration systems and the requirements for pro-poor land administration approaches. The beneficiaries of the land tools, the land holders in peri-urban settlements under multiple tenure systems, are the focal point of the evaluation. The key criterion for the evaluation of land tools is the delivery of security of tenure. Security of tenure is subdivided into a legal (de jure) and perceived (de facto) component.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Delft University of Technology
  • de Jong, Jitske, Supervisor, External person
  • Zevenbergen, Jaap , Supervisor
Award date17 Sept 2014
Place of PublicationAmsterdam
Print ISBNs978-1-61499-443-5
Electronic ISBNs978-1-61499-444-2
Publication statusPublished - 14 Sept 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Land administration
  • Land registration
  • Pro-poor
  • Land tools
  • Peri-urban


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