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Evaluating Urban Planning: Evidence from Dar es Salaam


Time: 3:00 pm- 4:30 pm, Apr. 12th, 2024

Speaker: Vernon Henderson

(London School of Economics and Political Science)

Platform: Zoom

Meeting ID: 994 5991 6531

Passcode: inse



Urban informality, which is prevalent in Africa's rapidly growing cities, can reduce private investments, lower tax bases, and exacerbate urban disamenities. A key policy tool to address this problem is greenfield urban planning where governments purchase cheap agricultural land on the urban fringe and partition it into planned, surveyed, and titled de novo plots, which people can purchase and build houses on. Yet, there is very little systematic evidence on the effects of de novo planning choices, such as the size and configuration of residential and non-residential plots. This paper studies the consequences of the planned layout of Tanzania's “20,000 plot” project, which provided over 36,000 residential plots in 12 project areas on the fringes of Dar es Salaam in the early 2000s. To study this project, we use new data from questionnaires and satellite imagery from circa 2020 and combine within-neighborhood analysis and spatial regression discontinuity designs. We find that small plots, which command higher land values and are built more intensively, are under-provided; public service provision (except roads) lags the plans; and about half the plots are still unbuilt; yet the areas nevertheless attract highly educated owners. These findings suggest that while the project led to large overall gains in land value, significant improvements to planning may be possible.





Professor Vernon Henderson is the School Professor of Economic Geography at London School of Economics and Political Science. His research focuses on urbanization in developing countries, looking both within and across cities and regions. His current research looks at topics such as the evolution of the urban system in sub-Saharan Africa; factor market distortions, city size and welfare in China and so on. His work has been published in journals such as the Quarterly Journal of Economics, American Economic Review, Review of Economic Studies, Science and Journal of Development Economics. He has been a co-editor of the Journal of Urban Economics and the Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, and serves on a number of editorial boards. He received his Ph.D. in economics from University of Chicago in 1972.