Bamako Village Mali.

Credit: IHH - Insani - Y. Bamako Village Mali.

With a growth rate of 4.4 percent per year, Mali’s capital city of Bamako is one of the fasting growing cities in the world.

Conflict in rural areas, climate change, and population growth are driving urbanization in Bamako and across Mali’s more humid southern provinces.  As rising temperatures and intensified droughts make it more difficult for farmers to make a living, many of the rural poor are migrating to cities and towns in search of a better livelihood.  Most move to “informal settlements,” large areas in and around cities, which are illegally occupied and typically beyond the reach of city services.

A patchwork of statutory and customary laws governs Mali’s urban land.  In areas near city centers where the market pressure on land is high, statutory laws may be enforced.  In areas with relatively little market activity, such as in informal settlements, customary rules tend to govern access to and use of land.  

The poor have two main options to obtain urban or peri-urban land on which to establish their households:  they can squat illegally, in which case they risk eviction, or they can pay customary authorities for the use of land. However, even those who pay for their land have limited security. The land is generally untitled and can be seized by the city government and auctioned off to middle- and higher-income urban residents, because the government does not recognize untitled customary land rights.

Obstacles to secure land tenure abound: methods for allocating plots are given to cronyism and corruption; obtaining and registering a title is an expensive and complex process; and there has been little oversight of the Public Lands Administration. 

To provide the urban poor with greater tenure security, a number of measures are worth consideration, among them: the revision of urban titling procedures or the institution of low-cost alternatives for formalizing land rights; the systematic granting of formal tenure status in peri-urban informal settlements; the establishment of narrow grounds for expropriation of urban land firmly justified by public use; and increase transparency and oversight of land administration functions.



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