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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Land privatization and formalization as traditional leasehold properties in Ghana : structure, transparency, and efficiency of the tenure model for housing investment and delivery Akaabre, Paul Boniface


In the 1980s and 1990s, the Bretton Woods Institutions demanded that debt-destressing countries in the Global South introduce free-market systems to improve efficiency and attract investment to key sectors of the economy, including housing. Following this, several countries in sub-Saharan Africa introduced economic reforms, including traditional land tenure privatization and rights formalization in Ghana. This dissertation examined how the formalization of traditional tenure into leasehold works, including how the leasehold model influences housing investments. I interviewed 21 people – chiefs, landlords, and staff of institutions – involved in leasehold administration and development control and surveyed 420 lessees who function as landlords in the city of Kumasi. These interviews and surveys show that the structure and practices of traditional leaseholds do not meet the tenets of lease creation and tenure security, particularly regarding issues of legitimacy, and certainty, and are thus not equitable and secure. Also, the processes that led to the privatization and formalization of rights in stool lands as traditional leasehold properties lacked transparency and public engagement, factors needed to ensure equity and certainty. Consequently, many lessees lack the necessary institutional knowledge [of leasehold tenure for residential and commercial use] and are, thus, unwilling to comply with the terms and provisions of their lease upon expiry. The study also found that the structure of Ghana’s traditional leasehold reflects a tenure trusteeship model that works to benefit the leaders (chiefs) and to the detriment of the community. Further, the traditional leasehold model (requirements) led to increased transaction costs and market inefficiencies, undermining investment in housing improvements and redevelopment. This outcome, the dissertation argues, is not a function of the formalization of traditional tenure into leasehold, which happened with a constitutional amendment in 1992, instead it is the function of insufficient formalization of leasehold tenure and thus underscores the need to approach land tenure reforms in ways that formalize property rights with clear and enforceable titles to assets. Finally, the study makes a series of policy proposals, including a model (famivest 80-20) to secure improved tenure and finance housing [re]development in cities of Ghana and sub-Saharan Africa and, more broadly, the urban world.

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