Border Governance: Support to the African Union Border Programme

Project description

Title: Border governance in Africa: Support to the African Union Border Programme (AUBP)
Commissioned by: German Foreign Ministry
Lead executing agency: African Union Commission
Overall term: 2008 to 2023 (overall term); Phase 4 2020 to 2023

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Within the framework of decolonisation, the independent African states left the borders inherited from colonial times in order to prevent new conflicts from arising as a result of a revision. With a few exceptions, these borders still exist today, but for various reasons they remain a factor of uncertainty. Thus, colonial documents do not always describe a precise border line and the markings show considerable deviations or are sometimes completely absent. Only a third of the borders in sub-Saharan Africa are clearly delimited and demarcated. In addition, social and economic factors were often ignored in the demarcation process, which still contribute to the emergence of local and interstate conflicts today. Conflicts at the local level can lead to violent escalation or the serious disruption of interstate relations. 

The African Union (AU) considers ill-defined borders as potential sources of conflict, especially when natural resources are discovered in the border regions. Such borders are a threat to peace and security, and they hinder regional integration, economic growth and development. In 2007, the AU launched the African Union Border Programme (AUBP) as a direct response to these risks. Clearly defined, internationally recognised and locally accepted state borders are therefore considered to be an important basis for conflict prevention.


Peace, security, integration and development on the African continent is improved through enhanced border governance and the implementation of the African Union Border Programme.

 © GIZ


The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ) is supporting the implementation of the African Union Border Programme on behalf of the German Federal Foreign Office across the continent. A coordination team in Addis Ababa works closely with the Commission of the African Union. Colleagues in various countries support the implementation of the AUBP on the regional, national and local levels. 

The support is focused on 3 areas:

Delimitation and Demarcation: The project supports selected AU Member States to better define their borders and to use improved planning and technical capabilities for joint border definition. The better definition of borders includes increasing the number (densification) and renewal of dilapidated border markings, as well as mapping border areas. It also includes the reform or creation of border commissions. Working with the local border to communities to create awareness about the relevance of borders and to prevent conflicts is another important aspect to foster peace and security. 

Cross-Border Cooperation: The project works with border communities, local, civil society and state actors to implement cross-border cooperation projects at selected borders. 

Strengthening the AU and RECs: The AUBP-unit and selected Regional Economic Communities (RECs) are strengthened in supporting border governance initiatives of their Member States. The project works with the AU Commission (AUC) and the RECs to improve their capabilities to exercise their roles as norm developers, multipliers and coordination platforms. The project aims at increasing the added value of the AUC for the states and to further strengthen the AUBP unit as a pacemaker of the border governance agenda and multiplier of AU legal instruments and policies.


From 2016 to 2019, the project supported 16 local agreements on cross border collaboration across Africa, with a large part of agreements concluded between municipalities in West Africa. 

The project supported the construction of infrastructure, including wells, hospitals, cattle markets and livestock corridors in border areas in the Sahel region to prevent conflicts between pastoralists and nomads. 

The project supports the AU Member States to establish or reform their national border commissions. The secretariat of Niger’s border commission was reformed, and in 2017, Cote d’Ivoire created a new national border commission. 

By the end of 2019, more than 6,000 kilometres of African borders have been fully delimited and demarcated as part of the GIZ project. Togo and Benin are closely working together on the delimitation of their maritime boundary and Benin and Niger better defined their joint river boundary after a judgment from the International Court of Justice. GIZ supports African countries with expertise and digital technology. 

The AUBP unit conducted a joint research together with the Institute for Peace and Security Studies (IPSS) at the Addis Ababa University on border conflicts at the Horn of Africa and in East Africa. The AU now offers a database with border governance experts to its Member States and the RECs. 

In 2020, the Assembly of the African Union adopted the African Union Strategy for Better Integrated Border Governance (AUBGS). It serves as framework for border governance across the continent as well as an instrument of orientation, coordination and coherence of border policies at continental, national and regional levels. The AUBGS carries forward the work previously adopted in 2014 by the AU Convention on Cross-Border Cooperation (the Niamey Convention). The project supports the ratification of the Niamey convention. In 2019, Mali ratified the Niamey convention.

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Additional information

African Union Border Programme – From Barriers to Bridges.

This film depicts the Pan-African activities of the African Union Border Programme and their impacts. It shows how the delimitation and demarcation of borders in Africa can lead to cooperation between countries and prevent conflicts caused by poorly defined frontiers.