Accepted paper:

Strategies to formalize land ownership in the Bamako, Mali metropolitan region: comparing the centre and peripheries


Dolores Koenig (American University)

Paper short abstract:

How informal ownership is formalized varies in central and peripheral Bamako, Mali. In the central city, formalization is introduced through roads and infrastructure; long-term residents risk loss. On the periphery, the creation of building lots, the first sign of formalization, displaces farmers.

Paper long abstract:

Central Bamako contains pockets of unregularized, informal property in so-called "spontaneous" neighborhoods, but the largest areas of informal property ownership are on the urban periphery outside formal city limits. Proprietors in both areas desire some benefits of formalized ownership, but they have different perspectives. Based on short-term fieldwork in 2009 and long-term knowledge of the Bamako real estate market, this paper compares existing ownership patterns and the effects of formalization. In both areas, land control is said to be under "customary" control of chiefs, but this unified terminology obscures significant differences. In central areas, customary ownership can be traced back to the owner-chiefs of the 1800s present when the French colonial government arrived; effective control was passed from them to 20th century migrants, who now claim customary authority. Most of these neighborhoods have been densely urban for 30-40 years. In contrast, village chiefs on the periphery govern rural and semi-urban villages, which have become progressively urbanized as the city has grown; most residents were farmers until recently. In central areas, neighborhood formalization takes place through creation of road and water networks and, secondarily, formally titled plots; it risks displacing long-term urban residents. In contrast, settlement on the periphery takes place first through the demarcation of plots that mimic urban lots, and the displaced are primarily long-time rural residents. In central neighborhoods, residents want the infrastructure brought by formalization, but the allocation of titled plots is politically fraught. In peripheral areas, urbanites wanting land push out long-time farmers.

panel P009
Emerging economic futures: the intersections of informality and formality [Anthropology of Economy Network]