Refugees impose a variety of security, economic and environmental burdens on host countries, but also embody a significant flow of resources in the form of international humanitarian assistance, economic assets and human capital. These refugee resources represent an important statebuilding contribution to the host state, but security problems and other hindrances inhibit the state's ability to access and control them. This article explores the challenges and opportunities for African states arising from the double impact of refugee-generated resources and security problems. It argues that the potential benefit for the state and its citizens go beyond the burdens imposed by a mass influx. Refugee resources and security threats potentially provide long-term gains, and, by compelling the state to strengthen its grip on border areas, enable the state to ‘harden’ its presence there. However, for host states to realise the potential of refugee resources and continue hosting refugees, they must be assisted by appropriate humanitarian programmes.