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The green, the grey and the blue: a typology of cross-border trade in Africa*

  • Gregor Dobler (a1)

Abstract

What are the reasons for the extraordinary dynamism of many African border regions? Are there specificities to African borderlands? The article provides answers to these questions by analysing the historical development of African state borders’ social and economic relevance. It presents a typology of cross-border trade in Africa, differentiating trade across the ‘green’ border of bush paths and villages, the ‘grey’ border of roads, railways and border towns, and the ‘blue’ border of transport corridors to oceans and airports. The three groups of actors associated with these types of trade have competing visions of the ideal border regime, to which many dynamics in African cross-border politics can be traced back. The article contributes to African studies by analysing diverging political and economic developments in African countries through the lens of the border, and to border theory by distilling general features of borders and borderlands from African case studies.

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This article is an outcome of years of discussions and exchange with my colleagues and friends in the African Borderlands Research Network ABORNE. They are too numerous to name here. Kate Meagher, Paul Nugent and Wolfgang Zeller have at various points changed my understanding of borderlands. I presented earlier versions of this article in Lisbon, Bayreuth and Joensuu, and I thank all participants for valuable input. Daniel Bach, Katharina Heitz Tokpa, Rita Kesselring, Olivia Klimm and Olivier Walther read drafts; their comments, just as those of the two anonymous reviewers, have provided crucial feedback and allowed me to make the article much better. My original research was funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation SNF and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft DFG.

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The green, the grey and the blue: a typology of cross-border trade in Africa*

  • Gregor Dobler (a1)

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