“From Barriers to Bridges” is the goal of the AUBP, which focuses on resolving border issues in Africa. As early as 1964, the then Heads of State and Government in Africa reached an agreement on the principle of the sanctity of borders: the borders inherited from the colonial era were to be retained as they stood.
Borders should become bridges
Nonetheless, over the course of the following decades border conflicts repeatedly arose in Africa because many borders had not been sufficiently delimited (in a legally binding manner) and demarcated (physically marked out). The African Union Border Programme, which was established in 2007, is intended to tackle this problem. Borders should be transformed from barriers into bridges which bring people closer together and advance integration on the African continent.
The Federal Foreign Office has supported the AUBP since 2008, providing 25 million euros to date: The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH is providing assistance for the delimitation and demarcation of boundaries, and helping to build structures for cross-boundary cooperation as well as capacities at continental, regional, national and local level.
The third phase of Germany’s support, which began at the beginning of 2016, places a particular focus on boundary management and on promoting cooperation between various actors, especially at regional and national level. Thanks to the project, more than 2500 km of African boundaries have thus far been fully delimited and demarcated. Copies of all historical documents on African boundaries kept in German archives have been handed over to the AU.
Cross-border health centre, Mali/Burkina Faso
Moreover, a cross-border health centre – the first of its kind in Africa – was opened back in 2012. The health centre is jointly operated and used by two villages in Mali and Burkina Faso. It has improved medical care for the local people and, in addition, plays a part in advancing day-to-day regional reconciliation in an area where peace has not always reigned. Whether patients are from Burkina Faso or Mali makes no difference here. Everyone receives the same care.
As well as assistance with delimitation and demarcation, the states currently involved in the AUBP and the AU are also receiving help to develop structures to facilitate cross-border cooperation. To this end capacity is being expanded not only in the member states themselves, but also in their organisations, institutions and service providers. Border issues and border work should be able to be negotiated and conducted independently in consensus with neighbouring countries.
Eighteen African countries are currently taking an active part in the AUBP.