Urban settlements in African borderlands illustrate the ambiguity between control and facilitation of mobility, between integration and separation. This panel addresses the, sometimes conflictual, interactions and their management in the cross-border urban, and rural-urban, setting along the border.
Border zones in Africa are often marginalized areas, neglected by the State with regards to infrastructure and services. Simultaneously though, border zones create an idiosyncratic activity and entrepreneurism that often puts the border at the center of vivid trade and exchange, creating a cross-border culture and identity, and a viable Lebensraum. Cross-border conurbations across Africa evolve from this entrepreneurial spirit and are shaped by the very institution of the boundary, and the shared experience as well as the asymmetries it creates. Border towns experience growth due to attractive economic options facilitated by regional trade regimes, while at the same time facing constraints due to arduous border management. The latter is motivated by security concerns and seeks to widen the gap between the two sides of the boundary, illustrated in broad buffer zones, patrols, checkpoints and queues that organize the crowds of quotidian migrants. Border towns find themselves required to strike a balance between facilitating mobility on the one hand and controlling and impeding illicit movements on the other hand. Paired with rising inequalities and tensions around the border, border towns regularly become witnesses of conflict and tensions. In this panel, we would like to explore how different layers of conflict, between facilitation and control of mobility, managing socio-economic differences in the context of urban density, interact. What challenges do border towns face and how are they and can be managed? What kind of cross-border urban planning is required? How does the urban interact with the rural in the borderlands?