Juggling Administrative Institutions: Local State Actors and the Management of Urban Space in Kumasi, Ghana

Ghana’s local governments are arenas for autonomous policy decisions following its 1988 decentralization program. These structures evolve and regulate economic and physical development plans in their jurisdictions. To ensure local level participation, institution building within the local self-governments has been actively undertaken, and in metropolitan areas, regulatory authorities for physical development have been reformed and decentralized to sub-metropolitan district structures. Despite the institutional changes, the challenge of unauthorized physical development persists and threatens reserved spaces designated for public use, conservation, and recreational purposes.

Given the complex mix of formal rules and practical norms within these structures, this paper explains how institutional reforms within the local self-governments work rather in favor of individuals’ interests; the changes allow not only local state actors but also private developers to juggle the various institutional frames and maneuver their way through to erect unauthorized structures in the Kumasi metropolis. Based on empirical data from the local state administrative structures in Kumasi, the paper shows how the interests of actors together with the multiple institutional rules shape residents’ options in their pursuit of physical projects in the urban space and, thus, enhancing the emergence of unauthorized settlement patterns in the metropolis. The paper, therefore, challenges the dominant notion on local state institutional reforms that links them to improved delivery of local public goods in the Global South because, in most cases, the change programs are severely limited by existing institutional interests and practices.

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Publication Type Journal
Publisher Urban Forum
Year 2016
Author(s) Matthew Sabbi and Collins Mensah
Other Numbers Vol. 27: 1, p. 59-78
ISSN 1015-3802
DOI 10.1007/s12132-015-9262-8
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