Society of African Journal Editors

South African Journal of Sociology

Explaining informal land delivery processes and institutions in African cities: Conceptual framework and emerging evidence

Authors: Resetselemang Clement Leduka

Journal: South African Journal of Sociology

Land for housing in most African cities is delivered through informal or semi-formal processes. However, until fairly recently, African urban research has tended to focus on compliance with formal state rules and the weaknesses of the public land management system in delivering sufficient land to meet demand. This type of analysis tends to elevate formal rules over other socially embedded rules that may facilitate access to land. It is argued in this paper that the analysis of land delivery processes has to transcend formal institutions established through state law, to the consideration of how actors that are external to the state interpret, use or challenge formal rules and the bases of their power to do so. This implies a pluralist approach to state law and non-state legal norms. By invoking a conceptual framework derived from structuration theory, institutional analysis and societal non-compliance, the paper demonstrates that the social relations between state structures and non-state actors and the institutions that underpin informal land delivery processes in African cities are complex and capable of producing unpredictable outcomes. These outcomes might include, but are not limited to, tolerance or benign neglect, acquiescence and accommodation, false or non-compliance, interspersed with moments of open confrontation and repression, not least the relations of patronage and clientilism mediated through the political system. To illustrate and explain these complexities, the paper draws on examples from recently completed research on informal land delivery processes in five Anglophone African cities.