The Bartlett Development Planning Unit

Prof Michael Walls

Prof Michael Walls

Professor of Development Politics and Economy

Development Planning Unit

Faculty of the Built Environment

Joined UCL
23rd Feb 2004

Research summary

Research, consultancy and teaching interests lie in the related areas of development management and governance, including: gender and the political settlement; state formation in developing countries; post-conflict reconstruction; state-led development and approaches to regulation of the market to promote equitable development; livelihoods in informal economies – especially African cities; frameworks for understanding and measuring development and wellbeing; and the ethical foundations for development intervention. Michael has established a particular focus on the Somali areas and Ethiopia within the Horn of Africa.

Teaching summary

2020-present: Director of DPU

2019-present: Professor of Development Politics and Economy, DEVP0012 Society and Market: private agency for development

2012-2019: Lecturer/Senior Lecturer

2005-2012: Lecturer, BENVGDA4 Development in Practice


Other Postgraduate qualification (including professional), ATQ03 - Recognised by the HEA as a Fellow |
University College London
Doctorate, Doctorate. | 2011
University College London
Other higher degree, Master of Science | 2003
University of Auckland
First Degree, Bachelor of Arts | 1989
University of Auckland
First Degree, Bachelor of Commerce | 1985


Michael is Professor of Development Politics and Economy and Director of UCL's Development Planning Unit (DPU). He has twelve years' experience in senior management in the private sector and lectures in 'market-led approaches to development' (a module titled 'Society and Market: Private Agency for Development'). For seven years, he was responsible for teaching development management at DPU ('Development in Practice').

For some nineteen years, he has focused on the Somali Horn of Africa, and most particularly on the evolving political settlements in Somaliland and Puntland. As well as undertaking research on state formation and political representation, he has been a part of the coordination team for international election observations to Somaliland elections in 2005, 2010 and 2012 and led an observation mission for the 2016 Voter Registration process. He was then Chief Observer, leading the International Election Observation Mission for the 2017 Presidential Election in Somaliland and also the 2021 combined Local Council and Lower House (Parliamentary) elections. Michael remains actively involved in a number of Somali-related groups, including the Anglo-Somali Society, Somaliland Focus (UK) and Kayd Somali Arts and Culture Ltd.

Michael is also involved in research into livelihoods and informality in African cities. He was Co-Investigator on a project looking at Economic Knowledge in the context of the informal economy in Zaria, northern Nigeria and was Co-Investigator on a research project looking at Complex Land Markets in Uganda and Somaliland, entitled Spatial Inequality in Times of Urban Transition.