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Home » September 2010

Urban LandMark Regional Conference:
Rethinking emerging land markets in rapidly growing southern African cities

1-2 November 2010

The Forum, Turbine Hall, Newtown, Johannesburg, South Africa
Download a map to the venue

The Urban Land Markets Programme of Southern Africa is hosting a regional conference in November to:

  • bring together key commentators on urban land issues in the region and beyond to ascertain the state of knowledge on poorer people's access to land and land markets; and
  • build stronger links amongst practitioners and researchers.

The event will be centred on three main themes, which will inform the scope of the discussions.

Theme 1: Recognising land rights - identifying alternative ways of recognising land rights

Located within the broad concept of the 'right to the city', this theme explores alternative ways of recognising land rights, and integrating them into existing legal systems.

Access to markets is integral to recognising land rights. Currently the market rarely distributes land in a way which allows or promotes access to it by poorer people. Discussions within this theme will examine:

  • local practices and social forms of recognition of rights which may not be administratively recognised but are nevertheless socially legitimate; and
  • alternative ways of trading and distributing urban land rights within African contexts.

The session will explore the opportunities and obstacles that land markets present to securing land rights for poor urban dwellers.

Papers within this theme area include:

  • An investigation of four squatter settlements of the Kathmandu Valley, Nepal, within the framework of urban poverty and rapid urbanisation, to find some strategies to address numerous emerging problems with the existing legal and institutional framework in terms of land rights and tenure security.
  • Ratification as a mode of securing tenure within government-acquired land in Lagos State, Nigeria, with a view to improving low-income groups' access to security of tenure.
  • An analysis of land tenure and its implications for improving Latin American unauthorised settlements by examining the legal situation in Caracas, Venezuela, where illegal land tenure is a constraint for the installation of services. Although the paper acknowledges that the lack of land tenure introduces many problems, it also investigates 'alternative cases' where communities have been improved and services delivered without land tenure.
  • An exploration of the issues of land rights in cities and how the rapid expansion of cities is affecting the urban poor by examining the plight of Mozambican subsistence farmers on the outskirts of the city. Since government owns the land, these farmers face losing their use of it unless they develop the land or sell it to private sector developers, usually for a meagre sum.

Theme 2: The political economy of urban land markets in Africa

Investigating the dynamics of power and the urban land market, this discussion will address questions such as

  • how existing property markets work in growing African cities?
  • who are the market players?
  • how do these players shape the power dynamics of the market?

Property economics is central to this theme and will be explored within the context of the local political economy.

Discussions will focus on the following issues:

  • empirical information which informs our view of how markets are working for and against land access by poorer people;
  • the dynamics of urban land markets in post-conflict contexts;
  • the impact on cities of foreign investment in urban land; and
  • the socio-political effects of ownership of slum land by elites.

Papers within this theme area include:

  • A baseline study of the affordable property market in South Africa against which future developments can be monitored. Using macro-, city- and suburb-level data from the Affordable Land and Housing Data Centre, in the context of various demographic indicators and survey data, the paper aims to assess the progress of the affordable property market versus the more commonly reported market.

Theme 3: Urban land governance

Here the focus will be on two major governance areas to explore innovative regulatory approaches to land, state-land release programmes for settlement by poorer people, their challenges, opportunities and best practice approaches:

  • Country/regional experiences in integrating poor urban areas/slums/informal settlements into administrative and legally recognised systems. Discussions will also address the effectiveness of legal instruments in terms of inclusive planning, recognising poor areas and the outcomes these have for the poor.
  • Experiences of effective and inclusive (or pro-poor) urban planning. Issues related to location, planning, migration and urban growth strategies, and improving urban efficiency, will be highlighted.

Papers within this theme area include:

  • An examination of the validity of the major arguments lobbying for less or no growth management in South Africa, using the growth management strategies adopted by the four biggest metropolitan municipalities - Johannesburg, Tshwane, Cape Town and Ethekwini - as case studies.
  • Testing whether government's emerging plan for successful housing delivery within a compact city approach fully confronts the real needs of the different constituencies making up the in-migrant urban shack population in South Africa.
  • An investigation into Botswana's experiences in integrating poor urban areas/slums/informal settlements into administrative and legally recognised systems and the potential for other countries in the sub-region to learn from Botswana's experiences.
  • Brazil and Colombia have experienced relatively similar national processes of urban reform. As a result, these highly urbanised countries have led the way in Latin America by creating articulated legal-institutional bases of comprehensive national urban land governance frameworks that aim to regulate, in a redefined manner, the relations between landowners, formal and informal land markets, the public authorities and civil society. Together, such legal principles have formed the bases of the collective 'right to sustainable cities'. This paper aims to describe these regulatory frameworks, as well as their main shortcomings, and the political and legal disputes which have undermined further progress of the urban reform processes in Brazil and Colombia.

Although this conference focuses on southern Africa, a number of papers from other regions that are comparative and promote learning between countries and regions from the African continent will be presented.

Visit the Conference website