Land and connectivity: Domain report

Working Paper 12

Tom Goodfellow, Abdifatah Tahir, Liza Rose Cirolia and Ransford Acheampong

May 2024


Urban land is a crucial economic, environmental and social resource in African cities. It also highly politicised, often becoming a source of conflict and a factor in growing urban inequalities. A burgeoning literature exists on urban land dynamics, much of which is focused on questions of land use planning and regulation, tenure regularisation and other aspects of land governance. In this ACRC domain, we instead sought to explore in depth how the nexus between land and connective infrastructure is shaping the way land is valued, used, transacted, fought over, managed and taxed in African cities. This report discusses findings from a six-city comparative study, spanning the cities of Accra (Ghana), Bukavu (DRC), Kampala (Uganda), Harare (Zimbabwe), Maiduguri (Nigeria) and Mogadishu (Somalia).

Following a discussion of some of the key recent debates in the literature on urban land in Africa, we provide an overview of the research project’s design and methodology. We then draw extensively on the six city studies to explore emergent crosscutting themes. These include the complex multiple drivers of urban land values; the ways in which different societal actors (including various forms of brokers) capture the rising values of urban land; the dynamics of “growth without access” in urban peripheries; the diversity in property taxation systems and how this informs context-specific reform challenges; the “technopolitical” dimensions of land administration and the opportunities and obstacles this creates for reform; the role of digital connectivity in shaking up land management and land markets; and the varying ways in which land is politicised and made a source of conflict. We then offer a comparative analysis of the politics of urban land and connectivity, suggesting that different political settlement types are likely to condition the extent to which land politics are further complicated by what we term “territorial politics” and “institutional politics” in the domain. Finally, we conclude with a summary of key findings and a discussion of policy implications.


Urban land, infrastructure, transport, digital connectivity, land value capture, land politics, land brokers, African cities