In light of growing pressure on forests benefit sharing is increasingly gaining attention as a governance approach to facilitating more equitable and sustainable interactions and outcomes. While benefit sharing is one of the key components of REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation and the enhancement of forest carbon stocks) programs and policies under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the approach is also actively debated within other resource governance contexts such as biodiversity and water. The debates however remain largely independent from one another. We particularly examine how benefit sharing could contribute to transformation of conflicts. Using discourse analysis and drawing from the broader scholarship of benefit sharing and property rights theory, we propose distinguishing appropriation-oriented and provision-oriented types of benefit sharing within REDD+. For sub-Saharan Africa, we see the need for such structured institutional analysis, which may point to particular emerging and persistent resource use inequalities as a new source of conflict. We investigate four case studies of REDD+ progress in Ghana, Tanzania, Cameroon, and Uganda that reveal some systemic challenges in achieving equitable and sustainable benefit sharing. The paper demonstrates that distinguishing and structuring appropriation and provision types of benefit sharing is indeed helpful as they are likely to be indicative of different outcomes. Our case studies also reveal challenges of policy-procedural nature such as weak land tenure arrangements and absence of carbon rights framework, but also fundamental challenges of agency nature such as conflicting interests vested in agriculture and tendency of concentration of benefits in the hands of few powerful actors.