3. Alleviating poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa through equitable, needs-based approaches to urban land management

Submitting Institutions

University of Edinburgh,
Heriot-Watt University

Unit of Assessment

Architecture, Built Environment and Planning

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Built Environment and Design: Urban and Regional Planning
Studies In Human Society: Policy and Administration

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Summary of the impact

This work has established the Alliance as a world leader in impactful research into equitable urban land development in Sub-Saharan Africa, especially Angola and Mozambique. For instance, in collaboration with the Angolan NGO, Development Workshop, its policy-influencing findings have been transferred into "real changes in [the] practice of land management" in five Angolan provinces, including the country's most populous. The research has underpinned training for stakeholders from over 40 municipalities in 15 provinces and the upscaling of pilot projects to city-wide programmes including the foundation of new companies (e.g. Navimbuando Ltd., the only firm of its kind in central Angola). To widen interest in the most recent research in Mozambique (described by [text removed for publication] a World Bank funded programme in Maputo as "a milestone in the field of informal settlement studies") a documentary was made, which has already been screened, or selected for screening, in 20 countries in Africa and Europe.

Underpinning research

In the past two decades, Sub-Saharan African countries have undergone exceptionally rapid urbanisation, which has impacted significantly on land use, generally, and housing in particular. Research by the Alliance has found that the dominant reality of land use access mechanisms — based on the needs, desires and capacities of the poor majority — is at odds with typical policy and practice approaches, which tend to be highly normative, predicated on major urban re-development, and thus over-ambitious and resource intensive. The research has been led by Prof Paul Jenkins (1996-present), drawing on extensive prior professional experience in the region. It has also involved Dr Harry Smith (1999-present), Director of the Alliance's Centre for Environment & Human Settlements (CEHS).

The research began with a post-doctoral project on post-Socialist Mozambique, which was funded by the Department for International Development's ESCOR programme and reported by Jenkins in the International Journal of Urban & Regional Research in 2001. In the twelve years since, it has comprised a number of projects in Mozambique and Angola, culminating in the publication of Urbanisation, Urbanism and Urbanity in an African City in 2013, a book authored by Jenkins. Together, these projects have provided the evidence that the level of public and private sector investment for adequate urban built environments in Sub-Saharan Africa has been (and likely will continue to be) limited in relation to the fast accelerating needs of the urban populations and growing urbanisation of poverty, and that making property rights more equitable can alleviate urban poverty through ordinary residents benefitting from their investments, both socially and economically. For this to happen at scale, it is essential to understand and work with the so-called `informal' land supply mechanisms developed by residents and other stakeholders, embedding this in evolving regulatory capacity at local government level (e.g. through new approaches to urban planning and housing).

At present, no other UK HEI is working on research of this nature in Lusophone Africa (in terms of depth, longitudinal scope and sustained impact) and the work has positioned Jenkins, in particular, as a leader in the field (leading to, for example, his contribution to a UN-funded scoping study on urban land issues in Angola and invitations to present at the London-Angola conference in Chatham House and a UN/Government sponsored seminar in Luanda). Furthermore, the Alliance has developed capacity within Africa, specifically Angola, where formerly, as HABITAT Angola has stated, "nobody had any real appreciation of the urban challenges in this country". A number of the research projects have involved close collaboration between Jenkins, Smith and the Angolan-based NGO, Development Workshop (DW), e.g. research undertaken over the period 2002-4, funded by the Department for International Development (DfID), which has been a key pathway to impact. In 2013, the Alliance also worked directly with the Huambo Municipal Administration on action-research to develop a strategy for the sustainable urban development of the city.

Significant outputs from the research include in-situ training courses, which have been devised and conducted for DW by the Alliance. In 2004, one such course addressed urban land and housing development strategies/practice for central, provincial and local government, the private sector and non-governmental organisations. It led to a number of pilot projects in Huambo (a key Angolan secondary urban area) and, over the following two years, Alliance training inputs were also provided to DW as the basis for a further study on informal rented housing in Angola. This work was funded by the International Development Research Centre of Canada and published in 2008.

Over the thirteen years of action-research, activity in Angola has overlapped with work in Mozambique. From 2009-2012, this was principally conducted as part of a large, international multi-disciplinary research programme on urban land and housing issues called Home Space in the African City. The research involved collaboration with Danish, Portuguese and Mozambican Universities, funded by the Danish Council for Independent Research. Jenkins designed the overall programme for the study, which incorporated unique longitudinal data from his two tranches of prior research in Maputo (including UN work in 1990), and was the project's Work Leader for Quality Control, Context and Synthesis.

References to the research


Jenkins, P (2001) Strengthening access to land for housing for the poor in Maputo, Mozambique, International Journal of Urban & Regional Research 25: 629-648.


Smith H & Jenkins P (2013) Urban land access in Sub-Saharan Africa: the right to the city in post-war Angola, in I Boniburini, J Lemaire, L Moretto & H Smith (eds) Le droit a la ville comme bien commun: Politiques sociales et planification urbaine, Les Cahiers d'Architecture No. 9, La Cambre-Horta (ULB) & La Lettre Volee, Brussels, pp. 139-156. ISBN 9782873173951 in REF 2


Jenkins, P (2006) Informal human settlements: infernal and eternal? The role of research in policy advocacy and urban informal settlements in Angola, in Huchzemeyer & Karam (eds), A Perpetual Challenge? Informal Settlements at the Local and Policy Level University of Cape Town Press, pp. 84-100. ISBN 9781919713946

Jenkins, P (2013) Urbanisation, urbanism and urbanity in an African city: home spaces and house cultures, Palgrave MacMillan, `Africa Connects' series. ISBN: 978-1-137-38016-6 http://us.macmillan.com/urbanizationurbanismandurbanityinanafricancity/PaulJenkins

DW/CEHS (2005) TERRA. Urban Land reform in post-war Angola: research, advocacy and policy development, Development Workshop Occasional Paper No. 5. Available at:

Details of the impact

The impact achieved by this body of work from 2008 onwards builds on the success of activities undertaken by the Alliance (through CEHS) and Development Workshop (DW) at the end of their collaborative DfID-funded project on urban land issues in Angola. The first of these accomplishments was influencing the Lei de Terras de Angola (Angola Land Law) of 2004, primarily through providing important empirical evidence for representation to parliament by civil society organisations. The Land Law was the first in Angola to be opened up to public consultation and paved the way for alternative rights to urban land for the poor majority to be recognised through subsequent state regulation and strategies. DW (see 5.1, below) has since been invited to work as Government Advisor on urban land regulations and testifies that...
"At the time of writing [July 2013]...key elements [of the law], such as the creation of special land reserves, have been implemented at a wide scale across the country".

Subsequent to the new regulations being published, there still remained extremely limited professional experience and capacity in urban land development in post-conflict Angola, both within government and the private sector. There was therefore a need to build on the opportunity for real change provided by the new regulations through demonstration in practice. The in-situ training that DW and the Alliance provided for stakeholders from government, the private sector and NGOs in 2005-2006 led, by design, to a number of pilot projects in urban development; implemented initially by DW for the Provincial Government in Huambo, and followed by further urban expansion and development, continuing up to the present day. Described by a representative of the World Bank (see 5.2) as "extremely important `learning-by-doing' for the government of Angola", these include Camussamba in Fátima and a housing reserve in Calima.

As corroborated by [text removed for publication] DW (see 5.1), the capacity building strategy developed jointly by the Alliance and DW has been "very effective" and "resulted in the implementation of land management and housing demonstration projects in five provinces and the training of administrators and technicians from over 40 municipalities from 15 of Angola's 18 provinces. Demonstration projects implemented by DW with advice from CEHS in the province of Huambo have introduced real changes in [the] practice of land management. The municipal administration of Huambo has developed a set of administrative procedures based on the principle of incremental land tenure improvement [and] introduced "occupation licences" that provide families with security of tenure and allow them the time to obtain full titles."

The Alliance's CEHS has been described by Huambo's [text removed for publication] Urbanism, Planning and Environment as "important partners for the Municipal Administration. [Together with DW] they are assisting [us to] modernise urban management in the city, implement more proactive planning and increase land use control" (see 5.3). Impacts include DW being awarded funding from the United States Agency for International Development to prepare a Draft Operations Manual on land rights, published in May 2008 as the Formalization of Land Rights in Rural and Peri Urban Settings in Angola. In addition, Dutch Embassy funding (2007 to present) has enabled DW to replicate the experience in other provinces, leading to: the development of a manual which is now in its 3rd edition (2011) and has been used for training several hundred government staff in Bie, Huambo and Benguela and at the National Training Institute for Local Administration; the creation of a 2,000+ item, virtual library on urban land issues in Angola (www.bibliotecaterra.angonet.org); and the piloting of purpose-designed (open source) cadastral software to better facilitate land use control by local government.

Because they offer opportunities for a planned alternative to peri-urban sprawl, urban expansion plans have attracted private sector development. Strategic planning work for DW by the Alliance (through CEHS) in Edinburgh in 2010 directly stimulated the `spin off' of successful new private sector enterprises, for example, Pafil Ltd and Navimbuando Ltd, the latter now the only local company in central Angola offering services inclusive of topographic survey, the design of new urban layouts and the demarcation of plots. As well as operating commercially, these companies also work for provincial and local authorities in new urban development, land use management and infrastructure provision. As a result of these activities, urban residents, newly empowered by land rights, feel more secure in their homes and are more likely to invest, both economically and emotionally, in their properties and wider neighbourhoods.

Although the planned upgrading of existing neighbourhoods is more of a challenge, it remains a priority, including for local government. In June 2013, Jenkins and Smith were invited by Huambo City Administration to assist in devising a strategic action plan for urban development, including the recognition of land rights for existing residents. Previously, in 2012, Jenkins had assisted DW plan scaling-up urban land projects to programme level, with the local authority requesting strategic planning assistance. In addition, at national level, in September 2011, Jenkins was invited as one of only five international experts to contribute to a workshop organised by the United Nations, local NGO, HABITAT Angola, and the Angolan Government on formulating urban development strategy, leading [text removed for publication] HABITAT Angola (see 5.4) to write: "Prof. Jenkins brings a lot of practical experience from Mozambique and Brazil, which are important countries for Angola to learn from. His advice was... very much practical in relation to the real problems here in Angola. Myself and colleagues from government and Habitat Angola appreciate such advice, it provides many ideas for concrete action. [The workshop] was a very important event and helped shape policy and... urban programs for 2012 and subsequent years".

Prior access to the findings from the most recent research in Mozambique (Home Space in the African City) was made available to the World Bank, on request, in 2012. This was to assist in preparing a second urban project with Maputo City municipality. The [text removed for publication] World Bank's ProMaputo II Programme has said of the research: "I think it represents a milestone in the field of informal settlements studies in Maputo and the wider African context, ... [giving] dignity to the inhabitants of these peri-urban areas, acknowledging their fundamental contribution, pride and ownership in the city development". (See 5.5). Heightened interest in the research has led to requests for Jenkins to speak at, for example, the Planning Africa Conference (in Durban, September 2012, as the ending keynote speaker) and as part of the Future of Cities Distinguished Lecture Series (run by the Oxford University Sustainable Urban development programme) in June 2013.

Public awareness of the work has been widened through the 2012 documentary African Urban Dreams. Produced by the award-winning Scottish Documentary Institute (see 5.6), the film premiered at the DOCKANEMA film festival in Mozambique in September 2012. It opened a debate on the Right to Housing during the 1st Urban Festival in Maputo (April 2013) and has been screened in Tripoli, Ramallah and Agadir by the British Council and on World Architecture Day in Denmark. It has also been selected for screening in 15 major European cities as part of the Transeuropa festival of culture, arts and politics, as well as in Croatia, Austria, Bolivia and Spain.

Sources to corroborate the impact

5.1 A factual statement from [text removed for publication] the NGO, Development Workshop (DW) has been made available in support of this case study.

5.2 A factual statement from the [text removed for publication] World Bank, Angola has been made available in support of this case study.

5.3 A factual statement from [text removed for publication] the Department of Urbanism, Planning and Environment, Municipal Administration of Huambo has been made available in support of this case study.

5.4 A factual statement from [text removed for publication] HABITAT Angola has been made available in support of this case study.

5.5 A factual statement from the [text removed for publication] World Bank Maputo II Programme, Maputo City Council has been made available in support of this case study.

5.6 Trailer for documentary, African Urban Dreams (2012)... http://www.scottishdocinstitute.com/films/african-urban-dreams/