New book explores issues of land and urban governance in Africa

As part of the eight partners’ meeting of the Global Land Tool Network held from 1 to 4 December, Springer launched a new book Land Issues and Urban Governance in Sub-Saharan Africa edited by Robert Home.

Sub-Saharan Africa faces many development challenges, such as its size and diversity, rapid urban population growth, history of colonial exploitation, fragile states and conflicts over land and natural resources. This collection, featuring contributions from different academic disciplines and professions, seeks to support the UN Habitat New Urban Agenda passed at Habitat III in Quito, Ecuador, in 2016.

Among the topics addressed by the book are challenges to governance institutions: how international development is delivered, building land management capacity, funding for urban infrastructure, land-based finance, ineffective planning regulation, and the role of alternatives to courts in resolving boundary and other land disputes. Issues of rights and land titling are explored from perspectives of human rights law (the right to development, and women’s rights of access to land), and land tenure regularization. Particular challenges of housing, planning and informality are addressed through contributions on international real estate investment, community participation in urban settlement upgrading, housing delivery as a partly failing project to remedy apartheid’s legacy, and complex interactions between political power, money and land. Infrastructure challenges are approached in studies of food security and food systems, urban resilience against natural and man-made disasters, and informal public transport.

ACC senior researcher Liza Rose Cirolia contributed a chapter entitled Financing African Cities: A Fiscal Lens on Urban Governance, which makes several important contributions to our understanding of urban governance in Africa, from a fiscal and financial perspective.

First, it shows that understanding public finance, in particular revenue, expenditures, and borrowing, is key to understanding urban governance. The design of sub-national fiscal systems, and the ways in which these systems are put into practice, shape how cities are governed, with direct implications for the daily operations and ongoing sustainability of urban areas. Second, the chapter argues that African cities require more dynamic financial tools, mobilising flexible, just and locally empowering sources of revenue. Land-based financing is a good place to begin to improve the revenue streams of city authorities, but must be accompanied by more creative expenditure models, to contend with the limitations of large-scale networked infrastructure and the potential for more hybrid approaches to service delivery.

The book is aimed at urban specialists in law, geography and other social sciences, and from professionals and policy-makers concerned with land use planning, surveying and governance.