In Search of Order
State Systems of Property Rights and Their Failings with Rachel Sweet Vanderpoel1
Accepted wisdom regarding the geography of power in most African countries holds that power radiates outward from the center, with the strength of the state most pronounced in the capital and often barely discernable in the hinterland. With the intense urbanization in many African countries over the past decade we are increasingly seeing areas and populations that are geographically proximate to the center of power, yet as beyond state control as the geographic hinterland. Urban informal settlements are “pockets of statelessness” within capital cities that often have neither formal political representation nor basic public goods. This chapter explores the persistence of one of these “pockets of statelessness,” the Kibera slum community in urban Nairobi, and identifies why attempts to title and enforce property rights there have been bypassed. Four competing enforcement regimes (state courts, NGOs, bureaucratic entrepreneurs, and gangs) are identified within Kibera, and their effectiveness with regard to social welfare is evaluated.
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