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Trading Places

Accessing land in African cities

Mark Napier, Stephen Berrisford, Rob McGaffin, Mark Napier, Lauren Royston

Publication Year: 2013

Trading Places is about urban land markets in African cities. It explores how local practice, land governance and markets interact to shape the ways that people at society’s margins access land to build their livelihoods. The authors argue that the problem is not with markets per se, but in the unequal ways in which market access is structured. They make the case for more equal access to urban land markets, not only for ethical reasons, but because it makes economic sense for growing cities and towns. If we are to have any chance of understanding and intervening in predominantly poor and very unequal African cities, we need to see land and markets differently. New migrants to the city and communities living in slums are as much a part of the real estate market as anyone else; they’re just not registered or officially recognised. This book highlights the land practices of those living on the city’s margins, and explores the nature and character of their participation in the urban land market. It details how the urban poor access, hold and trade land in the city, and how local practices shape the city, and reconfigures how we understand land markets in rapidly urbanising contexts. Rather than developing new policies which aim to supply land and housing formally but with little effect on the scale of the need, it advocates an alternative approach which recognises the local practices that already exist in land access and management. In this way, the agency of the poor is strengthened, and households and communities are better able to integrate into urban economies.

Published by: African Books Collective

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v

About the Authors

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pp. vi-vii

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pp. viii-ix

Trading Places is an inspired culmination of nearly a decade of careful research and policy advocacy by the Urban Land Markets Programme Southern African (Urban LandMark). The book is succinct and persuasive in the presentation of the approach developed by Urban LandMark, but it has also retained the sense of depth...

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pp. x-xii

Trading Places is about a new understanding of how people living in African cities access land and renegotiate real estate markets. It is the result of seven years of work developing pro-poor interventions to make urban land markets work better. The work included building up a new body of evidence, engaging in policy change processes...

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Chapter 1 - Land and markets in African cities:T ime for a new lens?

Mark Napier

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pp. 1-20

Most people living in cities in Africa live outside of the legal system, without clear rights to the land they occupy. These pieces of land make up the so-called slums which surround and permeate most growing cities, and which are home to between half and three quarters of African urban residents...

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Chapter 2 - Defining markets: A set of transactions between actors

Rob McGaffin and Caroline Wanjiku Kihato

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pp. 21-46

Poverty reduction is usually the cornerstone on which most development policies and programmes are premised. However, true development should be defined as the production or emergence of responses that improve the ability of people to function in their environment (Earthlife Africa 1992). This is because, as Nussbaum...

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Chapter 3 - In the meantime… Moving towards secure tenure by recognising local practice

Lauren Royston

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pp. 47-72

Colourful plastic buckets line up along the wall built around the standpipe, waiting for the pressure to increase. When it does, the water will finally flow and their owners will arrive to claim their buckets and a place that they hold in the queue. People here are patient...

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Chapter 4 - Getting land governance right in sub-Saharan cities: More than land administration

Stephen Berrisford

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pp. 73-90

It is too easy to argue that land markets will work better for poor women and men if the laws that govern the different dimensions of those markets are rationalised and improved. If laws are clearer, simpler and fewer, the argument goes, then transaction costs are...

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Chapter 5 - Choices and decisions: Locating the poor in urban land markets

Caroline Wanjiku Kihato and Mark Napier

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pp. 91-112

World cities face a bleak future. Global capital, state failure, structural adjustment programmes (SAPs) and a misguided non-profit sector collude to create a world of ‘megaslums’ which are ‘characterised by overcrowding, poor or informal housing, inadequate access...


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pp. 113-122


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pp. 123-124


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pp. 125-132

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781920677312
Print-ISBN-13: 9781920677312

Page Count: 144
Publication Year: 2013