Most of the land in sub-Saharan Africa is governed under various forms of customary tenure. Over the past three decades a quiet paradigm shifthas beentaking place transforming the waysuch landlis governed. Driven inpart by adaptations to changing context but also accelerated by neo-liberal reforms, this shift has created a ‘new’ customarytenure in subSaharan Africa.This paper reviews some of the evidence and analyses theways in which this neo-liberalisation of customary tenure has been transforming relations of production and how land is governed in sub-Saharan Africa.It identiﬁes how core neo-liberalisation processes such as privatisation of rights, commoditisation, de-regulation; re-regulation and ﬂanking have led to a formal reconﬁguration of the way people relate to land. It presents a characterisation of the ‘new’-African customary tenure before sketching out evidence of outcomes associated with neo-liberalisation of customary tenure.
The paper identiﬁes ﬁve outcomes marking out the new customary tenure’s legacy. These are: creating new class dynamics (those with registered rights and those without), altered institutional power relations (extending statutory governance), local rank order change (replacing the traditional ‘big men’ of rural Africa with ‘new’ big shots), miniaturisation of smallholder farming and the growth in medium scale farms, growing inequality and potential social diﬀerentiation.