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A failure of urban planning in many developing countries is evidenced by encroachment on road reservations. Urban planning literature suggests that such encroachment is largely explained by poverty and urban growth. But how do encroachers find space in the road reservations? This paper examines encroachment along the Anloga Junction to Ejisu section of the Kumasi–Accra highway in Ghana. It argues that formal rules are not effective in governing the road reservations: informal rules rooted in social networks of reciprocity matter more. The research involved interviews with encroachers, senior officials from government institutions and traditional authorities. It emerged that encroachers invoked mainly ethnic and political party ties with public officials to secure space in the road reservations. This occurred in an environment of non-enforcement of relevant laws, weak formal collaboration among public institutions, and inadequate political commitment. There is a need for effective application of the principles and methods of multi-stakeholder governance, linking improved legal regulation with informal processes, to achieve better outcomes.
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