Cities and borders


The Secretariat's work on urban morphologies, their functions and economies will analyse a set of key variables – of institutional, physical and socio-economic variants – in order to better understand the development dynamics of cross-border cities and the role they play in regional integration. 


Mapping border cities

In order to identify the morphologies of a city, a number of qualitative and quantitative variables will be assessed. These include physical features such as geography and climate as well as social, economic, legislative and institutional factors. This work will build upon the extensive mapping of the seven environmental, socio-economic and political indicators produced as part of the Cross Border Co‑operation and Policy Networks in West Africa report to identify the areas with the highest border co-operation potential. It will build upon the updated urbanisation data from the Africapolis project (data on shape, size and urban population). 


Measuring the accessibility of border cities in terms of time and distance

The number of people that can be reached from border cities varies greatly. Some borders divide dense and well connected population centres, as is the case between Accra and Lagos, while others stretch across vast and sparsely populated areas, as is the case between Mali and Mauritania. These specifics have a significant impact on communications infrastructure, major equipment and services developed to benefit border populations. 

The methodology for calculating population potential developed in the 2017 cross-border report will be applied here to measure border cities' accessibility. Other variables may be added to improve the model. Measuring the impact of the border on accessibility will shed light on the relative attractiveness of urban areas and can play a role in identifying how the development of border cities can be supported. 



These activities will be shared with the three regional organisations who are SWAC members (ECOWAS, UEMOA, CILSS), other SWAC members, the African Union and the NEPAD agency. Wageningen University (Netherlands) will provide software programming support for calculating the accessibility of cities. The Geography Department at the University of Niamey and the Sahel Research Group at the University of Florida and its West African networks will play a role in the surveys and discussions with local actors and in analysing the results. The UCLGA will provide networks of communities and local actors with a link to information and policy advocacy with a focus on adopting and proposing discussion frameworks appropriate to each context. The MOT (Mission opérationnelle transfrontalière) will provide insights on the morphology of cities, co-operation agreements and twin cities.


Memorandum of understanding

SWAC/OECD signed a memorandum of understanding with the Sahel Research Group (SRG) University of Florida in Paris on 22 March 2017, aiming to reinforce the links between academics, institutions and policy platforms. The  2017-18 activities are dedicated to cities, borders and security. The purpose of this work is to provide support for regional policies and international strategies in order to better anticipate the two major on-going transformations in the region: urbanisation and climate change. Approximately 10 papers in the OECD West African Papers series will be published to promote on going research. The SRG is a collaborative effort to understand the political, social, economic and cultural dynamics of the countries of the West African Sahel. The focus is primarily on the six Francophone countries of the region—Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad. SRG is also interested in developments in neighbouring countries, to the north and south, whose dynamics frequently intersect with those of the Sahel. This research platform brings together faculty and graduate students from various disciplinary and cultural backgrounds, notably from West Africa.  


Contacts: Professor Leonardo A. Villalón, Principal Investigator ( and Visiting Associate Professor Olivier J. Walther, Coordinator (


This work contributes to the Sustainable Development Goal on sustainable cities and communities:



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