Current Institutional Affiliation
Program Officer, Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2004
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Political Science, Northwestern University
Securing property rights in land: politics on the land frontier in post-colonial Africa

The increasing scarcity of land in many post-colonial African countries has led to a proliferation of disputes over land rights. This has created a need for efforts at reforming institutions that govern land markets so as to enable them better secure property rights in land. Despite this uniform need for reform, the extent of efforts at institutional reform has varied both within and across African countries. I seek to explain the variation in efforts at reforming institutions that govern land rights partly by testing existing economic, political and institutional explanations of the origins of property rights in land. I also suggest and seek to test an argument that explains variations in levels of reform by focusing on the breadth of the interests of key land market participants, and the availability to these land market participants of alternative private means of property rights enforcement. My contention is that key land market participants who possess expansive political and economic interests beyond land markets and lack alternative means of enforcing their property rights in land invest more in building public institutions that secure property rights in land. I combine a quantitative analysis of trends in reform in eighteen post-colonial African countries with detailed comparative historical analysis of reforms trends in Kenya, Botswana and Ghana to test my alternative explanations. By addressing these specific questions about the security of land fights, my research addresses a much larger puzzle that extends beyond post-colonial African societies and land sectors. Why do some actors exploit opportunities for gain in ways that subvert markets and promote societal disorder while others exploit similar opportunities in ways that further strengthen markets and promote societal stability? I will utilize the funds from this grant to conduct field research in Kenya and Ghana in the 2004/2005 academic year.