SIHMA | Scalabrini Institute For Human Mobility In Africa

A Borderless Africa

As the continent grapples with mass human movement driven by environmental disasters, conflict, and insecurity, the concept of a borderless Africa is one that may offer a potential solution to these intersecting and complex challenges. An Africa without borders could foster regional integration, economic growth, and social cohesion across the continent, making it imperative to explore the challenges, prospects, and potential benefits that could come with its realization.

A key theme throughout existing literature emphasizes the importance of regional integration. As an example, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has seemingly operationalized this concept through its Free Movement Protocol (1979). While ECOWAS has faced challenges with its implementation, the Protocol has also made significant strides in promoting free movement within member states. However, even among regional organizations in Africa, security concerns pose a major barrier to free movement across countries. Governments cite terrorism, insurgency, and human trafficking, amongst other reasons for restricting immigration. In reality, legalizing the freedom of movement across the continent can mitigate these challenges through regional coordination and regulation. In fact, criminalizing human mobility arguably enables such security threats by forcing people and actors to go outside of established systems.

African immigrant entrepreneurship serves as a potential catalyst for driving intra-African trade and economic development, and research shows that this is happening in national economies across the continent. A borderless Africa would allow countries to maximize the contributions of migrant entrepreneurs, creating growth and prosperity that everyone benefits from. By eliminating the restrictions imposed by artificial boundaries, countries can regulate and facilitate economic growth driven by the engagement and ingenuity of people from across the continent.

The continent’s history both justifies and hinders the realization of an Africa without borders. Neocolonial legacies continue to divide and destabilize countries while neoliberal orthodoxy in international actors and institutions perpetuates inequality and injustice across Africa. If African countries can overcome these political and economic challenges and harness the potential of continental unity, there is boundless potential for prosperity. Regional organizations such as ECOWAS and the Southern African Development community (SADC) have a crucial role to play in fostering the cooperation and integration necessary to achieve this reality.

A borderless Africa requires countries to embrace regional integration, address security challenges, foster entrepreneurship, and promote ideals of unity and cooperation. By reimagining borders as bridges rather than barriers, African countries can pave the way for a brighter future characterized by shared progress.           


Towards a Borderless Africa? Regional Organisations and Free Movement of Persons in West and North-East Africa

The Security Challenges of a Borderless Africa: Issues and Perspectives


Between Neoliberal Orthodoxy and Securitisation: Prospects and Challenges for a Borderless Southern African Community

Africa without Borders


Photo by Hu Chen on Unsplash


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