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Working paper

WP200: Border proximity and attitudes toward free movement in Africa

Evidence suggests that opportunities associated with living near a border outweighs any risks.
Beth Elise Whitaker 20 Jun 2023
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How does proximity to an international border influence attitudes toward the free movement of people in Africa? Often conceptualised as barriers, borders also represent opportunities for people to get higher prices for goods, pursue better services, or seek refuge from persecution. Border area residents are better able to take advantage of such opportunities but are also more likely to be affected by security threats and other risks. Analysing georeferenced Afrobarometer survey data from 44,807 respondents in 32 countries, I find that respondents who live in closer proximity to an international land border are more likely to support free movement than those living farther away. These findings hold even when accounting for interacting with people from neighbouring countries, having co-ethnics across the border, and living near a refugee camp, suggesting that the opportunities associated with border proximity tend to outweigh any risks. As African governments move toward visa-free movement throughout the continent, public support for such policies may vary significantly depending upon geographic location.

Beth Elise Whitaker

Beth Elise Whitaker is a professor of political science at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.