Missing Financial Architecture of Urban Development: Exploring the Critical Geography of Urban Property Tax Potential in African Cities

This research project seeks to contribute to the knowledge frontier on understanding both the explicit and implicit role that property tax revenue systems play in shaping the financial architecture of key urban infrastructures in booming African cities. The central premise of this work is that the financial and related managerial architecture behind urban infrastructure projects, such as those in the water and sanitation sectors, matters for equitable urban development and healthy urban communities. Relatedly, the distributive potential of infrastructure development tied to Africa’s urban real estate boom depends on the strength of governments to socialize project benefits. Worldwide, the municipal property tax is widely recognized as a critical mechanism that holds the potential to effectively address this distributive challenge. Here we marry an explicit study of property tax potential and viable models of valuation and collection in African cities with an investigation of the implicit role that property tax systems play in determining how key infrastructure projects in cities are financed, and ultimately how this financing shapes who benefits from such projects. The central research question is: how can the revenue potential of the current urban real estate boom in African cities like Addis Ababa be better leveraged to finance key urban infrastructure that services the wide urban population – including the urban poor?