Cross-border co-operation




Together with West African partners, the SWAC Secretariat created the “West African Borders & Integration Network“ (WABI) in 2003 which gave rise to local pilot operations. It helped the ECOWAS Commission to formulate its Cross-border Initiatives Programme (CIP) and the Commission of the African Union to set up its Border Programme. The Club's work on cross-border co-operation was completed early 2011 with the publication of a Practical guide on cross-border co-operation.          


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About cross-border co-operation



Cross-border co-operation is a local initiatives approach through which actions are formulated and implemented by private and public local actors from two or more countries residing in cross-border areas. This approach should be based on the agreement and support of the governments of the countries concerned, with two objectives: i) Improve the living conditions of cross-border populations who are often marginalised; and ii) Concretely build regional co-operation. Cross-border co-operation is not a development sector, but a tool.



This innovative approach to the regional integration process was first put forward in early 2000 by Alpha Oumar Konaré, ex-President of Mali calling it “cross-border areas”. They share the same geographic space that could not be divided by physical borders. This was the beginning of a conceptual process of the “cross-border area” idea. Successive meetings of experts along with Ghanian and Malian Heads of State in March and May 2002 in Sikasso and subsequently in Accra have made it possible to better understand local border realities, to share various experiences of cross-border co-operation.




  • Launching of the West African Borders and Integration (WABI) network, initiated by the SWAC Secretariat, the government of Mali and the Senegalese-based NGO ENDA-Diapol; it aims at facilitating the implementation of cross-border initiatives and pilot operations.


  • Launching of the ECOWAS Cross-border Initiatives Programme (CIP): ECOWAS hosted a WABI workshop and requested the support of the SWAC Secretariat to facilitate its implementation.
  • UEMOA and CILSS announced the integration of cross-border issues in their regional integration strategy.


  • Implementation of two pilot operations in Sikasso – Bobo Dioulasso and the 'Sénégambie méridionale', defined by local actors with the support of PDM, UNOWA, the UNDP and the Canadian and Austrian co-operations.
  • Draft Convention on cross-border co-operation in the ECOWAS area, prepared with the support of the SWAC Secretariat. It aims to define an institutional framework to promote cross-border co-operation.


  • Implementation of two more pilot operations in the Karakoro basin and the "Kano - Katsina - Maradi" area (K2M), with the support of GRDR, the EU, CCFD, UNDP and the SWAC Secretariat;
  • Launching of a regional programme in support of decentralised cross-border co-operation by ALG in November 2006;
  • Approval of the ECOWAS Convention on cross-border co-operation in the ECOWAS area in November 2006 by an experts meeting.


  • To ensure sustainability of the cross-border programme, the newly created ECOWAS Commission integrated cross-border co-operation issues in its organization structure within its Free Movement of Persons Department.
  • The AU Commission expressed interest in learning from the West African experience to facilitate cross-border co-operation at the continental level. A Steering Committee and a West African Experts Working Group have been set-up.


  • Stakeholders meeting of the Ecowas Cross-border Co-operation Programme, Abuja, May 2009: cross-border actors discussed next steps and priority actions of the ECOWAS Cross-border Co-operation Programme. The programme’s aim is to bring regional integration and local populations closer together by empowering border areas.


  • Validation and restitution workshop on Burkina-Faso-Mali border experiences, Ouagadougou, 29 June 2010; based on the example of the mango industry in the regions of Sikasso (Mali) and Bobo Dioulasso (Burkina Faso), discussions focused on possibilities and constraints to cross-border development between Mali and Burkina Faso. 


  • A practical goude on cross-border co-operation. This CD-ROM provides cross-border co-operation actors with analyses of possible approaches for facilitating financial and legal arrangements of their activities. A selection of maps of West African borders is also included.













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