This paper explains informal land delivery systems in African cities, using a conceptual framework developed at the beginning of the research on which the paper is based. The framework was premised on a pluralist conception of institutions of urban land delivery, which was perceived to be underpinned by dispersed power relations between state and non-state actors. From this sort of perspective, it was possible to argue that the outcomes of social articulations between formal and informal institutions, and actors who operated within and across institutional structures, would be unpredictable and diverse. Examples are cited from Gaborone, Maseru, Eldoret and Kampala to demonstrate this unpredictability and diversity. In terms of policy, it can be concluded that irrespective of the type of land management policy that might be formulated, informality in land delivery is likely to remain a permanent feature of African urban development. Therefore, informality should be anticipated and included in policy formulation, with a view to working with rather than against it.
South African Review of Sociology (2006) 37 (1) 1-19