Africa Borderlands Centre

Ahunna Eziakonwa, Assistant Administrator and Regional Director for Africa


The journey to elevating the voices of Africa’s borderlands has started on a very strong footing, despite the devasting impact of the COVID-19 global pandemic. Africa’s borderlands are regions of strength, all -inspiring beauty, resilience, and creativity. The generations of borderland communities who occupy these spaces prove this as they continue to adapt and thrive. The Africa Borderlands Centre is the manifestation of a bold statement by UNDP, and its partners’ collective resolve to uphold the farmers, pastoralists, intellectuals, traders, historians, artisans, caregivers, women and youth at the heart of UNDP’s development actions. 

Admittedly, borderland communities live in the most fragile, insecure, and impoverished locations in Africa. Their historic marginalization is the reason they tend to be underserved in development efforts. Such a situation is fertile ground from increased insecurity and inequality. Climate change has increased the struggle for scarce resources leading to forced migration and resource conflict in some of these regions. We see this from the Sahel to the Horn of Africa, including in the Great Lakes and Lake Chad regions, where communities navigate harsh conditions to lead a simple life.

Despite the challenges, Africa’s vibrant communities play an important role in promoting regional economic and social integration, creating opportunities for inclusive socio-economic empowerment, building peace and social cohesion, boosting social capital and enhancing livelihoods.

The establishment of the Africa Borderlands Centre has a dual role in working towards improving development efforts in borderland regions. First, to conduct the most relevant expert research & analysis and, through innovative approaches, to curate, test and pilot creative ideas by embedding home-grown solutions from within borderland communities. Second, it will co-create an approach that ensures that border communities develop their capabilities, to derive maximum improvement of their quality of life from the economic activities taking place within their geographical space. Both these approaches consider the values and peculiarities of the borderland communities and their socio-economic dynamics. There is no doubt in my mind that borderlands will transform into regions of peace, prosperity, and sustainable development.

It is with great pride and encouragement that I endorse the Africa Borderlands Centre’s mission, a centre piece of the Africa Promise and UNDP’s Renewed Strategic Offer for Africa. I remain resolute in my commitment to support this unique effort to shine the light on Africa’s exceptional resources, initiatives and creativity in yet another inclusive manner.

All the best,



‘Borderlands’ are the territorial margins of nation-states – regions where border contact is a central feature of economic and political life. In Africa these regions play host to more than 270 million inhabitants, a combined population significantly larger than any single state on the continent.

These are sites of enormous innovation, creativity, and economic potential, containing both the human and natural resources to support thriving communities and fast-growing local economies. At present this potential is not being fulfilled. 


About the Programme

Development approaches to date have tended to design programmes around national development plans, which are implemented within national borders and often overlook the unique challenges of borderlands and their connection to regions outside the national territory. The absence of dedicated borderland programming at a regional level has been a critical gap in developmental policy to date.

In response, UNDP has established the Africa Borderlands Centre, which treats border regions as distinct economic and political zones in their own right. The Borderlands Centre offers specialized, expert knowledge and technical advice that will enable the better design, implementation, and adaptation of development programmes for border regions across Africa. It will operate as an expert resource of intelligence, expertise, and experience in support of national governments, inter-governmental agencies, UNDP country offices, UN agencies, development partners and other key stakeholders.


The Centre’s work is framed around two pillars:

1. Co-creation of innovative solutions through the Borderlands Laboratory

The Centre’s social laboratory will work with borderlands influencers and leaders to co-create ‘innovation challenges’, aimed at transforming security, economic and environmental vulnerabilities in the borderlands into opportunities for inclusive development.

2. Programme design, high level advocacy, and technical advice

The Centre is action-oriented, and its research will equip policy and decision-makers with more and better data, cutting-edge analysis, lessons learned, and good practices.

Key services

New Model of Borderlands Programming that strengthens the inclusiveness of development programming

Evidence-based policy development and advocacy to promote mainstreaming of borderland issues

High quality technical and programming advice to design and implement initiatives that sync up across boundaries

Collecting and sharing lessons learned and best practices in borderland activities, developing a toolkit for operating, researching, and programming


Innovating through testing and local adaptation, with a strong emphasis on local voices, recommendations, and feedback from border-land communities

 Supporting the AU, RECs and partner governments to mainstream borderland issues and improve border and borderlands policies and sub-regional initiatives

2021 Integrated Resilience Borderlands Offer


The Borderlands Laboratory

This is the heart of the Africa Borderlands Centre’s (ABC) work. It will facilitate the testing and experimentation of Borderlands programming through annual Innovation Challenges. The 2021 theme will be on ‘improving livelihoods and informal-cross border trade for Borderlands communities.’



The Knowledge and Research Products

The co-creation of authentic borderlands knowledge will be focused on the codification of key physical features, historical features, socio-economic issues, and other critical information from border communities into the Africa Borderlands Encyclopaedia. 



Borderland and cross-border programming

Building on the 2021 Innovation Challenge, local solutions will be carefully documented, to inform the emergence and scaling up of new models of implementing development interventions on informal cross-border trade.



The Launch of the Africa Borderlands Centre in Lodwar, Kenya


Meet the team

Our team will dedicate resources to ensuring that we are accessing and producing cutting edge research, specifically focused on understanding the unique challenges facing Africa’s borderlands, both from an issue-based and a programmatic perspective.

Drawing on this knowledge, the Centre will work with partners, both government and non-government, including the private sector, to test and adapt potential innovations in support of better outcomes in border regions. We will also provide on-demand technical and programming advice to partners, based on a systematic analysis of what works in these regions, what does not, and on the specific needs to policy implementers.

Zeynu Ummer, Team Leader and Senior Technical Advisor

Zeynu Ummer is the Team Leader and Senior Technical Adviser and leads on all strategic undertakings to facilitate the implementation of the Integrated Resilience Borderlands Offer for the Africa Borderlands Centre.



Lily Murei, Research and Policy Officer

Lily is leading work on policy research and data covering inclusive evidence-based programming, program assessments and action research, result-based management and policy technical advisory.

Kareen Shawa, Communications Specialist

Kareen Shawa is leading on strategic communications and visibility focusing on evidence-based integrated communications to all stakeholders and human-centered storytelling to elevate voices from the borderlands.

Kehinde Bolaji, Program Advisor

Bolaji is leading on programme management, integrated advisory services, partnership management, data and knowledge support. In particular, he is leading efforts on operationalizing the Centre’s Innovation Lab.



Enock Omweri, Solutions Mapping Analyst

Enock is leading on mapping opportunities, challenges and solutions across the border areas of interest by engaging the community to identify areas of possible development.

Kristoffer Tangri, Partnerships and Programmes Specialist

Kristoffer is leading on work in support of national governments, the African Union and RECs, UN and IFI partners, UNDP Country Offices and development partners to support the development of dedicated borderlands programming, particularly at the cross-border and regional level.

Antony Mutungi, Data Analyst (UNDP Africa Borderlands Centre)

Antony is leading work on data analysis and is responsible for the delivery of cutting-edge data, analysis and knowledge on critical borderlands policy and programming.

Contact us

Nairobi Thematic Hub
United Nations Development Programme
UNON Complex Gigiri, Block M, Level 3
P.O. Box 30218-00100, Nairobi, Kenya






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