Tanzania: Impact of low-cost urban land tenure formalisation

At close to 80%, Tanzania has one of the highest levels of urban informality world-wide. Informal land rights in urban areas are a major obstacle for sustainable urbanisation in a number of ways, in particular by (i) undermining the scope for generation of own-source revenue by local governments; (ii) raising the costs and reducing the benefits of forward-looking urban planning; and (iii) reducing individuals’ investment incentives and their ability to use land as collateral for credit.  Although avenues exist for acquiring formal land title (referred to as Certificates of Rights of Occupancy, CROs), the current processes are costly and complicated, with the cost of obtaining CRO estimated at close to $400.  Without a lower cost approach to regularisation and issuance of CROs, it will be difficult to overcome these constraints to sustainable urbanisation.

Demand for new ways to formalise land rights and improve planning have emerged from various sides: Big Results Now (BRN!) included access to land & tenure security as a new work stream and local governments, with support from the Tanzanian Strategic Cities Programme and other programmes, have set up automated systems for revenue collection based on building footprints, that would benefit greatly from increased formal land tenure. In response, the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Human Settlements Development (MLHHSD), with support from the World Bank, has developed a re-engineered process for regularisation and issuing CROs using low-cost high-resolution imagery as the basis for land surveys and issuing titles and combining the process of town planning with adjudication and demarcation of land. The re-engineered process will be piloted in three urban areas in Tanzania: Morogoro, Mbalizi (Mbeya), and Tabora.

The focus of this IGC project is to provide a rigorous impact evaluation of the pilots in order to assess the viability of the process, document its short-term impact, and provide evidence to support and justify the scaling-up of the proposed approach. The project will also assess the short-term socio-economic impact of land titling. The research output from this project aims to provide an evidence base for the Ministry of Lands (MLHHSD), the Ministry for Local Government (PMO-RALG), and other stakeholders to support the necessary regulatory changes and generate the momentum required to transition to a lower-cost approach to land titling.

The research team is working closely with local governments hosting the pilot projects to facilitate a randomised impact evaluation of the programme. In each pilot city, approximately 2,000 contiguous parcels have been identified for the project; half of the parcels will be randomly assigned to receive a CRO through the low-cost approach (treatment group) and the other half will not (control). In one city, a third group, living just outside the pilot project area will be interviewed to account for potential spillovers within the pilot area between households that receive titles and those that do not. A baseline survey on a random sample of owners within each project area will be conducted to gather information on education, health, expenditure, income sources, time use, intra-household bargaining, individuals’ knowledge of laws and procedures, their exposure to conflict, and their demand for formal land tenure. The impact of the pilot programme will be evaluated by comparing the outcomes of those households that received titles, with those that did not.


  • Research in progress.

    Project last updated on: 2 Nov 2015.