Urban Forum

, Volume 30, Issue 1, pp 1–16 | Cite as

Peri-Urban Land Governance in Developing Countries: Understanding the Role, Interaction and Power Relation Among Actors in Tanzania

  • Said NuhuEmail author
Open Access


Peri-urban land governance in Tanzania and other developing countries is shaped by divergent or complimentary roles of actors emanating from their authority, power and interest which create a complex relationship affecting land governance process. This paper is built on a call for more research on governance and urban land use by scholars. The focus of this paper is to identify governance gaps arising from the roles of different actors, interaction and power relations. The paper is based on the critical review of published and unpublished literature, as well as government reports. Overlapping and complementary roles influenced by varying power relations and interests among actors is revealed. This is witnessed in the Ministry of Lands and Local Government Authorities (LGAs) and between the private sector and land occupiers. The former is associated with the ministry’s reluctance to share power with LGAs, perpetuated by conflicting laws and regulations, while the latter is attributed to economic power of investors versus the vulnerable groups. Recognising the implication of the participation of various actors is not only critical in improving the interactions and harmony among actors, but also enacting appropriate legal and institutional frameworks to regularise both formal and informal actors in order to improve peri-urban land governance henceforth.


Land Role Power relation Actors Governance Peri-urban 


It has been projected that by 2050, more than 66% of the global population will live in urban areas and urban expansion will occur more in Asia, Africa and Latin America regions (UN 2014). A large part of the population in these regions will continue to live in a state of illegal land tenure (FDC 2009). Projections further show that between 40 and 50% of India’s population, 30 to 40% Latin American, 20 to 60% in Arab countries and 50 to 80% in Sub-Saharan Africa cities will live in informal settlements (FDC 2009). This implies that developing countries will experience rapid expansion of the large cities. The expansion of urban areas develops vertically in towns and major cities while it is horizontal in the peri-urban belt (Bloch 2015; Maheshwari and Bristow 2016). As a result, small urban centers and villages around cities are turned into peri-urban areas due to changes of city and municipal boundaries to accommodate the urban expansions (Bloch 2015).

In Africa, it was estimated that the urban population would rise from 400 million people in 2010 to 1.26 billion in 2050, with cities such as Johannesburg, Khartoum, Casablanca and Dar es Salaam reaching a population of ten million inhabitants (Sow 2015). Ethiopian urban population is estimated to grow by 4.3% annually and increase by half a million every year (Adam 2014), while Luanda in Angola was noted as urbanising at a terrific rate (Mabin et al. 2013; Gastrow 2017). Statistics however, show that Africa remains least urbanised globally (UNACTAD 2017). By 2015, it was predicted that the continents’ urban population would represent only 55% of the continents’ total population compared to 64% for Asia and 86% for Latin America. The challenge however, remains rapid urbanisation without structural transformation (Sow 2015).

The search for better social facilities and infrastructures has led to rural-urban migration causing population burden in the African cities compared to the developed countries (FDC 2009; Napier et al. 2013; Fazal et al. 2015). This has contributed to commodification of land (Chimhowu and Woodhouse 2006; Adam 2014) as well as land use conflict particularly in Central Africa (Toulmin 2008; UN-Habitat 2010). Changes in macroeconomic policies, environmental, rural urban and across border migration are highlighted as contributing to ‘sub urbanism’ especially in Sub-Saharan Africa leading to informal settlements (Mabin et al. 2013; Gastrow 2017). These informal settlements have many names ‘shanty’ towns in South Africa, ‘Musseques’ in Luanda and ‘Uswahilini’ settlements in Tanzania (Rudic 2016; Groenewald et al. 2013).

In many African cities, peri-urban space is on demand for residential purposes as well as informal trade activities (UN-Habitat 2010; Bloch 2015). However, a new paradigm is that urbanism has been driven by the desire to imitate the status of world cities Gastrow (2017), a concept referred to as ‘Citiness’ in Africa and highlights Rwanda, Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria and Angola in this new development. This urbanism is shaped by policies and institutional frameworks in addition to actors (Mabin et al. 2013; Klug et al. 2014). In this regard, accomplishment of sustainable development in cities remains complex due to overwhelming urbanisation and rapid population growth and as cities sprawl, urban peripheries increase in number and typologies (Bloch 2015).

The situation is worsened by poor land governance mechanisms (Nuhu and Mpambije 2017). Most central governments lack the capacity to implement a large-scale national land registration system in a transparent manner (Toulmin 2008). In Sub-Saharan Africa, critical issues such as lack of political will, human and financial resources (Durand-Lasserve 2005), lack of integrity and participation (Deininger et al. 2011) rampant corruption (Nuhu and Mpambije 2017) are contributing factors to poor land governance. Weak urban land governance has adverse impacts on cities’ growth (Palmer et al. 2009). This leads to encroachment on the public spaces, insecure land tenure and violation of local community land rights (Kombe 2005; TI and FAO 2011; Klug et al. 2014). Adam (2014) hints that, peri-urban areas in African cities experience loss of land which has adverse social impacts. In many African cities, weak urban land governance drives the urban poor to live under the constant threat of eviction (Palmer et al. 2009; Kedogo et al. 2010). Furthermore, residents in these cities experience inequalities based on gender (Kedogo et al. 2010; Ravnborg et al. 2016) and economic status (Toulmin 2008; Adam 2014) which hinder both women and the urban poor from accessing urban land.

Attempts to address urban land governance challenges have been subjected to the paradigm shift in African countries, especially in the post neo-liberal period (Briggs and Mwamfupe 2000). While the state has monopoly of power over land in these countries, there is also an increase in the number of international, national and informal actors (Kedogo et al. 2010; Msangi 2011). The aforementioned actors are involved in the process of land access, in the peri-urban areas of major cities (Gwaleba and Masum 2018). These actors because of different interests influence decision making of peri-urban land governance at different levels (Palmer et al. 2009; Kedogo et al. 2010). Although the roles and impacts of various actors in land services and access have been cited by various studies (see Kedogo et al. 2010; Wolff et al. 2018; Gwaleba and Masum 2018), a comprehensive analysis of their interaction, influenced by power and authority, has not received adequate attention from scholars and policy makers.

This paper, seeks to reveal peri-urban land governance gaps in Tanzania using the existing literature. Specifically, the paper aims at identifying key actors, their roles, interactions and power relations. To pursue this, the paper uses the new institutional theory (following North 1990; Peter 2004; March and Olsen 2006). This theory is applied because most existing studies point out that formal and informal institutional approaches are dominant in the process of accessing and delivering public services in most developing countries (e.g. Kombe and Kreibich 2001; Quaye 2014). The governance viewpoint is also applied because Obeng-oddom (2017) noted that under the new institutional theory, the governance perspective is mainstreamed. This is reflected in the five prepositions offered by Stoker (1998:18) in theorisation of the governance concept. The preposition is that governance refers to a “set of institutions and actors that are drawn from but also beyond government”. It also means a network of actors, boundary responsibilities, relationship between institutions and excising authorities and power among actors. Thus, governance principles cannot be alienated from the new institutionalism approach even from the definition perspective.

The previous sections give a background of peri-urban land governance in the developing world context. The next section provides descriptions and explanations of land governance in peri-urban areas by focusing more in Tanzania. The paper then, presents the employed research strategy followed by identification of different actors’, analysing their interaction, power relation and its implication for peri-urban land governance. The final section provides conclusions and areas for further research.

Land Governance in the Peri-Urban Areas of Tanzania

Tanzania is the largest country in East Africa with a total area of about 948, 740 km2 with approximation of land covering 889, 460 km2 (Kombe 2010a, b; URT 2012). Currently, it is estimated that Tanzania has a population of about 56,744,406 of which about 32.2% live in urban areas (Worldometers 2017). This population in urban areas will continue to grow leading to increasing demand for urban land amidst land tenure insecurity. Land governance issues stem from evolving land tenure systems from the traditional system to colonial systems and neo-liberalisation. In 1980s, Tanzania adopted Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) which changed the political, social and economic structure at the national scale and had an impact on land access in peri-urban areas (Briggs and Mwamfupe 2000; Kironde 2009). Despite the establishment of the neo-liberal policies as a result of SAPs, power over land in Tanzania remains vested in the President (Kombe 2010b; Msangi 2011).

According to the Land Acquisition Act of 1967, the Land Act of 1999 and the Urban Planning Act of 2007, the President of the United Republic of Tanzania is mandated to acquire land needed for public use or interest (URT 1967, 1999, 2007b). This is similar to Angola where most urban transformation projects are managed by the presidency (Gastrow 2017) and Ethiopia where the government acquires land for the purposes of urban expansion and development programmes (Adam 2014). The 1977 Tanzania constitution (URT 1977) also provides for protection of private property rights (Kombe 2010a, b; Msangi 2011, 2014). Under these conditions, the peri-urban landholders own the land rights and any kind of development made on the land (Lugoe 2008; Katundu et al. 2013). A land certificate can be offered as an identification to recognise the rights of individuals on land (Lugoe 2008; Katundu et al. 2013; Nuhu 2013). However, it has been argued that land being vested in the presidency in Tanzania and not for sale is just a connotation (UN-Habitat 2010). The state mandate over land rights ownership in post-independence Tanzania gives her powers to expropriate existing land users in the national interest (Chimhowu and Woodhouse 2006). There is also a complexity, where land belongs to the state, because an individual can only sell the property on the land but not the land (UN-Habitat 2010).

In Tanzania, access to land in peri-urban areas has been affected by governance challenges e.g. unregulated and opaque informal land markets, building in the hazardous areas, corruption and land-use conflicts (Kombe 2005; Magigi and Majani 2006; Katundu et al. 2013; Kombe 2010b). Kombe (2005) elaborates that this is linked to planning ideas which do not correspond with the principles on the ground in land-use planning. Corruption and land-use conflict is reportedly caused by inadequate transparency and participation in decision making pertaining to land use as well as ineffective coordination among departments’ dealings with land matters (Kironde 2009; Nuhu and Mpambije 2017). Land matters are also characterised by inequality between men and women, rich and the poor. The urban poor and women do not have equal access to land especially under the customary tenure and formal land systems (Kombe and Kreibich 2001).

The situation in Tanzania is not an isolated case; it cuts across Africa. Mabin et al. (2013) notes that African urban land tenure systems and markets have undermined formal institutional land administration mechanisms because they are complex, ambiguous and expensive. Most countries use outdated land recording systems; they lack modern technology and are highly bureaucratic, inefficient and use inaccurate registries propelling vulnerability of the land administration to corrupt practices (UN- Habitat 2010). This leads to ineffective implementation of national and international land-related policies.


This paper uses data from secondary sources such as published and unpublished literature, as well as government reports relating to peri-urban land governance. Ellis et al. (2011) defines secondary research as an approach which involves the systematic description, analysis and summarisation of the existing research or previously completed studies and applying the result to your own situation. Secondary data is used to make a critical analysis of peri-urban land governance in developing countries and Tanzania in particular in this paper. Research question-driven approach following Cheng and Phillips (2014) is employed, where the researcher has queries and then looks for suitable information to address them. The analysis built on pre-existing data in this paper addresses two questions:
  • Who are the key actors and their role in peri-urban land governance in Tanzania?

  • How do the key actors interact and the implication of their power and power relations in peri-urban land governance?

These questions allow the researcher to make analysis based on developed themes related to the subject as discussed in the next sections. The paper is focused on the peri-urban areas because peri-urban land is important for accommodating urbanisation and city expansion. Peri-urban area is also a transition zone between city sprawl and rural surroundings. Peri urban land market is a source of livelihood for various actors and hence contentious. Consequently, there is high tension and conflict between actors towards land access.

Key Actors and Their Role in Peri-Urban Land Governance

Different actors are involved in the process of access and delivery of land in the peri-urban areas in Tanzania (Kombe and Kreibich 2001; Kombe 2005; Kedogo et al. 2010). Actors include the government and its agencies, private sector, development partners, civil society organisations (CSOs), academics and the media, as well as local communities and private land occupiers. The roles of these actors is discussed in the following sub-sections.

Government Actors and Agencies

These are formal institutions which include the ministry of land and local authorities (city council, municipalities and town councils), the national land commission, registration boards, utility agencies and oversight institutions e.g. Police Force and the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau [PCCB] (PCB 2005; Katundu et al. 2013). According to Tanzanian laws and policies, these are the major actors playing a leading role in ensuring access to land and land governance (Kombe 2010b; Katundu et al. 2013; Msangi 2011). Lugoe (2008) notes that the government and its agencies are termed as key actors because land as a property must be managed and administered by administrative units which have public authority. Land also as a public good must not be left to the control of a group or individuals. The central government under the Ministry of Land, Housing and Human Settlements Development (MLHHSD) function is to initiate and implement policies, laws and regulations; to prepare land use plans; to administer land development; to grant land certificates and to resolve land use conflicts (Nuhu 2013; Kombe 2010a).

The Local Government Authorities Act (District Authorities Act No. 7 of 1982) stipulates that authorities include district councils, township authorities, ward development committees and village councils (URT 1982b). The Urban Authorities Act No. 8 of 1982 also established the local authorities in the urban areas, which include city councils, municipal councils, town councils, ward development committees and neighbourhoods (Mitaa) (URT 1982a). In some cases, LGAs, in addition to being responsible for local peri-urban land governance, play the same role as the central government (Kombe 2005; Kironde 2009; Kironde 2015). LGAs do not have power to acquire land, but can only request the President to exercise his/her powers to acquire land on their behalf. These authorities also have powers to declare land around their jurisdiction reserved for the purpose of development according to the established Urban Authorities Act and District Authorities Act. These acts also provide power to LGAs to prepare land use plans for streets, buildings and other areas, to identify land for urban development and to enforce the established development control measures (Kombe 2010a).

Other actors under the government include the National Land Use Planning Commission (NLUPC), the professional registration boards and the utility agencies. The NLUPC deals with the harmonisation and coordination of all land use-related policies and legislations. The commission also has the role to promote effective land use by ensuring sustainable utilisation of land resource (Kironde 2009). The professional registration boards’ role is ensuring that discipline, standards, practices and code of conduct are followed in the field of surveying, real estate, valuation and planning (Kironde 2009). The Utility agencies (i.e. TANESCO and DAWSCO) provide basic services (water and power supplies) to the serviced land and un-serviced land (Kombe 2010b; Kombe and Kreibich 2001).

There are also oversight actors such as the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB) and Police who are part of a watchdog mechanism in addressing good governance in all processes of public services access and activities (Nuhu and Mpambije 2017). Police in collaboration with courts of law ensures that land disputes are resolved and culprits are held accountable for their actions (Chalom et al. 2003; Kironde 2009; Nuhu and Mpambije 2017). These disputes could be between the state and individuals or communities or among individuals.

Local leaders include ten-cell, sub-ward and ward leaders who are government representatives at grass roots level (Magigi and Majani 2006). Ten-cell leader is a first level administrative unit representing ten households. In urban areas, this is expanded to represent 50 households. Local leaders provide information on land occupiers’ rights and property boundaries especially in unplanned areas. They also play an active role in settling land disputes in planned and unplanned areas (Kombe and Kreibich 2001; Kombe 2005; Nuhu 2013). These leaders regulate and control urban land development and initiate community meetings which are held to secure their interest on land tenure. Local leaders also collect views on land matters, which help to improve participatory mechanism in decision making (Kombe and Kreibich 2001; Kombe 2005; Magigi and Majani 2006). Emanating from this discussion, the central government is without doubt the key actor in land governance in Tanzania, ranging from controlling public land to establishing land management, administrative authorities and structures as is the case with decentralisation and relevant ministries.

Private Sector

Private sector actors are engaged in both formal and informal land market processes as landholders, developers or even financiers. The formal private sector entails registered private firms which include investors and land service providers (Fazal et al. 2015; Kasala and Burra 2016). This sector is interested in the economic gain of utilising land or providing land delivery services for profit (OECD 2013a, b). Investors demand peri-urban land for commercial or industrial purpose, and they offer sources of financial support to the government (Makwarimba and Ngowi 2012). The level of income they hold determines accessibility and distribution of resources such as land.

Land service providers include property developers (real estate agencies), planners, surveyors and lawyers (Kasala and Burra 2016). Property developers ensure sustainable urban development by developing the land into organised estates and enabling accessibility of property to buyers (UN-Habitat 2010). Planners ensure quality and efficient land use planning by delivering serviced land and facilitating land registration (Magigi and Majani 2005; Kasala and Burra 2016). Surveyors conduct cadastral surveys following the approved town planning drawing (Kasala and Burra 2016). Lawyers, witness and endorse land transactions as well as advocate presentation in land use conflicts. Land service providers are more interested in the demand and supply of land and land servicing (UN-Habitat 2010; Kasala and Burra 2016). Some of their activities are informal, and they subscribe to norms of behaviour, conventions and self-imposed code of conduct. In Tanzania and other African countries, informal norms influence availability of land with low prices especially for the urban poor. Under informal norms, land is available in different size and price at any time. These norms are applied as a substitute of the failure of formal land delivery and access systems (Kombe and Kreibich 2001).

Land service providers also contribute to the transformation of land management procedures (Kasala and Burra 2016). They have access to detailed legal status, ownership, prices and names of landholders who want to sell land/plots. Therefore, these providers collaborate with relevant government authorities and individual land occupiers to access land-related information. Service providers, such as private brokers or property dealers work closely with land investors to identify strategic location of land, negotiate transactions and acquire land ownership documents determining the value of land in a particular location (Kasala and Burra 2016). According to Kasala and Burra (2016), service providers in collaboration with the Government of Tanzania led to the delivery of about 68,000 plots from 2002 to 2012 and between 2013 and 2015, they delivered 32,650 plots in the Dar es Salaam region alone.

Informal private sectors include individuals and brokers. Individuals are land buyers and sellers in the peri-urban areas. The sector encompasses a group of private individuals, who operate illegally, are neither taxable nor registered in the formal system. It constitutes more than 70% in the peri-urban setting in most of the African countries including Tanzania (Kombe 2005; Adam 2014). The informal private sector creates opportunities for the poor to access land and accelerates the process of accessing and delivering of land in peri-urban areas (Kombe 2005). Brokers help in facilitating transactions and linking land buyers to sellers. Brokers also assist in solving land disputes over ownership rights as they know the land occupiers, (UN-Habitat 2010). It has also been noted that sometimes, brokers take part in negotiations (informal authority) of land price on behalf of the sellers or buyers.

Development Partners

Development partners are instrumental in building the capacity of government and other non-state actors to improve land governance through legal, institutional reforms and development of various framework that can be applied in the land sector (Magigi 2010; Kedogo et al. 2010; Deininger et al. 2012). The World Bank and partner institutions for instance, developed the Land Governance Assessment Framework [LGAF] (Deininger et al. 2012). With this framework, the World Bank has been a key actor among the development organisations in supporting the legal and policy land reforms in many Sub-Saharan Africa countries, while Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) guidelines on good governance in land tenure and administration (FAO 2007) are applied to assess improvements in land sector governance in Tanzania. Ravnborg et al. (2016) note that development organisations such as USAID and FAO, among others, through the rights-based approach have supported a wide range of civil society-based initiatives, such as developing gender-disaggregated database and improving land access rights to vulnerable groups such as women (Magigi 2010; Ravnborg et al. 2016). Development partners have been instrumental in building capacity to develop land policy, legal framework, land administration and titling/registration programs and initiatives. These actors have also played a crucial role in the establishment and implementation of policy and strategies, land allocation and resettlement, dispute resolution or access to justice system, awareness rising and others.

Civil Society Organisations, Academics and the Media

CSOs, Academic Institutions and Media houses play an important role as pressure institutions for policy advocacy, mobilising resources and implementation of land projects (OECD 2013a; Nuhu 2013). CSO’s have mainly engaged in land activism, supporting vulnerable groups to claim their land rights through representation and sensitisation (Kedogo et al. 2010; Nuhu and Mpambije 2017). These actors have also been fundamental in training poor people on various aspects including land acquisition and housing, intervening in the informal sector and assisting poor people against forced evictions, tenure regularisation and slum upgrading (Nuhu 2013; Adam 2014).

The efforts played by CSOs help to spread knowledge and show the gaps in urban land governance (Kombe 2010a, b; Nuhu and Mpambije 2017). In Tanzania, CSOs such as the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC), Wat-Human Settlements Trust and Haki-Ardhi have been greatly involved in offering land-related legal services to the urban poor and putting pressure on the state for transparency and accountability on land matters (Sackey 2010; LHRC 2016). Researchers and academics are also engaged in adaptive governance initiatives (see Kombe 2010a, b), for instance, in pointing out the weak governance concern in urban development. The land-use conflicts for example, in the peri-urban areas of Dar es Salaam, particularly in Chasimba, Msikitini, Kwembe and Luguruni have been raised by researchers in the media. The media as an independent actor has also supported dialogues and discussion related to land governance inviting various stakeholders to inform and educate citizens. The major roles of CSOs, academics and media houses have been focusing on sensitising the masses and protecting the land rights of the most vulnerable groups in the peri-urban communities.

Local Communities

Local communities include individual land users and non-land occupiers living in peri-urban areas (e.g. land/house renters). Peri-urban dwellers and land occupiers are concerned with the protection of their individual rights to use and occupy land as well as to participate in governance matters related to land in peri-urban areas. Communities and private landholders would like to hold and develop their land without restrictions from the state. Local communities may participate in urban land management and administration, and may identify the causes of land-use conflicts (Magigi and Majani 2006; Massoi and Norman 2010; Kombe 2010b). Communities participate in signing documents on land transactions as witnesses between buyers and sellers. These initiatives are vital in preventing potential land-use conflicts in their surrounding environment (Kombe and Kreibich 2001). It has been noted also, that local communities have played a role in developing their land. Layson and Nankai (2013) studying the Makongo Juu urban redevelopment project in Dar es Salaam point out how land occupiers and the community participated in the initiation for the project that was meant to create formal settlements. Magigi and Majani (2006) and Magigi (2010) noted the participation of local communities in provision of information relevant to land regularisation for informal settlements in Ubungo Darajani, in the known Kinondoni Municipality. The highlighted studies reveal that the local community is an important actor since it enhances the sense of ownership of land-related projects.

There are several actors in peri-urban land governance, some actors play multiple roles. These roles may either compliment or supplement each other’s effort as pre-discussed. The roles are determined by power, authority and motives. This influences the interactions and power relations among actors as discussed in the next section.

Interaction and Power Relation Among Actors in Peri-Urban Land Governance

UN-Habitat (2010) notes that the roles of the actors in the urban land market do not only cover numerous areas, relations and contexts of activities, but also often overlap rendering decision-making in the land market complex. Hence, peri-urban land governance is dependent upon interaction and power relation among actors with different roles (Katundu et al. 2013). Hilhorst (2010) observes that some actors are affected by their relations and dynamics, which are determined by power and authority influenced by politics and financial resources. As noted by Kedogo et al. (2010), due to inequalities in the distribution of power, certain actors may be included or excluded, consciously or unconsciously. Therefore, this may affect their contribution towards improved land governance (Haapanen 2007). The contribution of certain actors in land governance is hindered by these power relations.

The government plays a multifaceted role as a land owner, policy regulator, land administrator and land-use manager; creating standards and parameters to be followed by local authorities’ and other actors. It may intervene to protect citizens from manipulation by investors and land developers. The urban land market is an arena where urban actors such as government, private developers, land owners, traditional authorities and others earn a living. In this regard, the government actions in land are crucial due to the significance of land to the economy, people’s livelihoods, employment and ultimately stability of the nation (Toulmin 2008). This fits with North (1990:3) idea that an institution is a “humanly devised constraints that structure political and social interactions”. In Tanzania, the president as a steward of land implies that the government is the domineering actor in land maters. Therefore, the government can influence decisions of other actors or hinder effective interactions.

The state as an actor in urban governance in Sub Saharan Africa is involved in the provision of housing, transport infrastructure and serviced land (Mabin et al. 2013). The intervention of government is necessary because not all urban dwellers can afford to access land (UN-Habitat 2010). However, according to Massoi and Norman (2010), there is some confusion about the government actors and their designated responsibilities and roles which create a monopoly of the state over land issues. In situations where stakeholders are not aware of their mandate, including citizens’ lack of awareness on their land rights, the state may exploit its people (Msangi 2011). This scenario may be observed where the state exercises its right to the expropriation of public land (Kamala 2006). Even when citizens make inquiries, they are not listened to nor are the government’s decisions reversible (Kombe 2010b; Msangi 2011, 2014). To some extent, this occurs due to power overlapping between the role of the Ministry of Land and LGAs. Both the Ministry of Lands and LGAs sometimes play similar roles such as regulation of land uses, allocation of land and controlling development over land as indicated in Fig. 1 (Kironde 2009). In the operation and implementation of their duties and roles, in some cases, they overlap each other, resulting into inefficiency in peri-urban land matters (Massoi and Norman 2010).
Fig. 1

Key actors in peri-urban land governance and their functions

The next influential actor after the government in peri-urban land matters in Tanzania is the private sector. The private sector has power to influence most land decisions in the country. It is noted that investors have opportunities to access land under the provisions of the Tanzania Investment Act No. 7 of 1997 (URT 1997; Lugoe 2008; Makwarimba and Ngowi 2012). Actors in this category are driven by the supply and demand of land services. Because investors have financial capital, they can influence the government to appropriate land for themselves (GAN 2016). This is a manifestation of economic power translating into political influence, and this is worsened by the commodification of land and neo-liberal economic policies where the state is also more interested in the economic gain from private investment. Investors are also part of land-use conflicts in peri-urban areas, others being the government (central and local), communities and local leaders (Kombe 2010a, b; Msangi 2011; Makwarimba and Ngowi 2012). This is reflected in the land ownership conflicts and extensive urban sprawl and expansion of peri-urban areas in Tanzania (Kombe 2010b; Msangi 2011, 2014). Similar example can be drawn from Central Africa where Angolans and Chinese nationals conflicted because the Chinese investors were engaged in trading informal construction markets. The Angolan accused the Chinese of engaging in ‘business practices that undercut the viability of the citizens ventures’ (Gastrow 2017). Investors have also been accused of displacing locals in the spirit of urbanisation. This justifies the conclusion by UN-Habitat (2010) that the private sector does not care for the needs of the poor. This is in line with North (1990) and Peter (2004) idea that the economy is affected by society’s changes and is embedded in a broader social, cultural, political and power relationships. Both private sector and development partners have financial power. However, they use this power to achieve diverging interest.

Development partners’ in the interest of not being seen to interfere with state autonomy, have concentrated more on building local institutions capacity, providing legal frameworks and sensitisation of citizens (Deininger et al. 2012; Ravnborg et al. 2016). Globalisation has enabled development partners to enforce global strategies aimed at improving service delivery such as the World Bank Land Governance Assessment Framework (Deininger et al. 2012) and the sustainable cities program (Nnkya 2005). However, these strategies can only excel where there is political will and commitment to implement those global strategies (Wolff et al. 2018). Development partners’ efforts seem to have not yielded adequate impact, given the loopholes in peri-urban land governance as well as eminent land conflicts still witnessed in the country. Analysing this type of development partners, Ravnborg et al. (2016:7) concludes that there is a “…certain degree of sequencing in the land-related donor support from initially focusing upon the legal and administrative framework as such and then gradually moving towards issues of implementation”. However, it is also noted that the support of development organisations has concentrated mainly on land titling interventions and less on establishing or maintaining the full range of national as well as sub-national legal and institutional frameworks (Magigi 2010).

Although CSOs are at the helm of fighting for citizen’s land rights, they are often overwhelmed by political coercion and influence (Haapanen 2007). It is evident, from the discussion, that the government and its agencies as well as the private sector, constitute key actors and have the leading role in land acquisition and administration in Tanzania. The civil society is only its close partner (Katundu et al. 2013). CSOs do not command the power and authority as that of investors and development partners simply because they do not possess the financial muscle to influence decisions, and most of the CSOs’ activities are supported by development partners. In this regard, CSOs may complement the efforts of development partners in protecting the land rights of citizens. It is therefore, sometimes felt that CSOs compromise with decisions of funding partners. However, the efforts of CSOs may be thwarted by the government through its repressive mechanism and regulation of their activities. This is commensurate with North (1990) perception that institutions can constrain actors’ sets of incentives and disincentives. This makes actors powerless to undertake community transforming initiatives to avoid conflict with government.

Individual land occupiers and local communities belong to a vulnerable group in society. They are easily exploited by other actors. Investors for example are always striving to acquire land from land occupiers at low cost because of profit maximisation. This situation in Tanzania is similar to other African context. The government and sometimes private landholders can come into conflict due to rapid urbanisation frustrating the lives of peri-urban dwellers (Mabin et al. 2013). In Luanda, Angola, the process of creating world ‘citiness’ poses as a source of conflict among land stakeholders where peri-urban dwellers become vulnerable to displacement (Gastrow 2017). Land occupiers and local communities in this instances are poorly mobilised, lack financial resources and thus do not influence most land governance decisions. Hence, their participation is hindered.

Inadequate public participation is an issue of concern among actors in peri-urban land governance. The Urban Planning Act 2007 and Land Use Planning Act 2007 state that public consultation is mandatory in land matters in Tanzania (URT 2007a, b; Kironde 2009). Despite provisions in the law for citizens’ participation, land access and allocation lack the meaningful participation of citizens in Tanzania. Lack of citizens’ participations has direct impacts on transparency and accountability in land matters (Nuhu and Mpambije 2017). This means that government officers, planners and surveyors will not be accountable for their action as citizens will be ignorant of their actions. The study by Ballonzi (2007) cited in Kironde (2009) point out the Kurasini Redevelopment Scheme as an example of a land development project where the public, especially land owners were not involved in the initial stage. However, the government held several public meetings thereafter to inform community on the decision which was already made about re-planning their areas. Community participation is key in land acquisition processes since it can create multiple stakeholder platforms that bring peri-urban residents face to face in dialogue with planning and land-acquiring authorities (Adam 2014).

As the discussion has unfolded, the interaction among actors can be influenced by power, authority, responsibilities and restrictions in land governance. This has varying implications for different actors in regard to access, control, management and participation in land matters. It is revealed in this section that the interactions and power relations among actors in peri-urban land governance is more influenced by power and authority in terms of political power, economic muscle or both. Notably, this is in line with insights of March and Olsen (2006) that the manner in which authority and power is constituted, exercised, legitimated, controlled and redistributed has significance effects on decision making.


Different land actors as reviewed, play varying roles, and these may be influenced by conflicting motives, interests or perceptions. Some of these actors may play similar or related roles, whereas, others may participate in multiple roles, yet they have different influence on land governance issues. Hence, conflict and collision among actors may be unavoidable. The discussion reveals that some actors are more powerful than others, affecting fair interaction and participation in peri-urban land governance. The existing legal and institutional framework does not provide the supporting environment for equal participation of all actors. It gives room for conflict within and among actors, for example the conflicting laws and regulations which inhibits the central government to share power with local authorities (Massoi and Norman 2010). It is not only important to understand the institutional framework guiding land access in peri-urban areas but also, the motives and perceptions of the different actors towards the governance structure. This is critical in providing effective lessons for policy and theory on peri-urban land use and transaction as well as improving land governance in general. The discussion also emphasises the significance of participation in improving land governance in peri-urban areas; therefore, integration of sectors and coordination of actors is not only a necessity but unavoidable for effective sustainable planning.



This work is for the author, is part of PhD study in Urban Governance and Environmental Studies in two Universities; Swedish University of Agriculture Sciences (SLU), Sweden and Ardhi University (ARU), Tanzania. I wish to acknowledge my supervisors; Prof. Wilbard Kombe, ARU, Dr. Colman Msoka University of Dar es Salaam, Dr. Camilo Caldron and Dr. Zainab Tag-Eldeen, from SLU, for their advice and encouragement. I would also like to thank SIDA-SAREC program for supporting my PhD studies and two reviewers for their beneficial and important comments on the initial version of this paper.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The author(s) declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

The paper is based on information and data from various reviewed literature. The views expressed are an interpretation of the author from the literature.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Swedish University of Agricultural SciencesUppsalaSweden
  2. 2.Institute of Human Settlement StudiesArdhi UniversityDar es SalaamTanzania

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