Cross-Border Trade, Insecurity and the Role of Customs: Some Lessons from Six Field Studies in (Post-)Conflict Regions

Authors: Thomas Cantens & Gaël Raballand
Publisher: ICTD
Date: August 2017


ICTD Working Paper 67

Africa, and especially the Sahel, has experienced frequent recurrences of armed conflicts and terrorist acts in the last decade. This paper is based on six field studies, in Chad, Mali, Sudan, Tunisia, Libya and the Central African Republic. It reflects on the governance of trade in border regions during a (post-)conflict situation, exploring the practices and strategies of customs officials operating at insecure borders. It demonstrates the unintended consequences of security policies – especially on trade, and consequently on revenue generation. It further shows how customs administrations de facto leave it to customs officers on the ground and importers to agree on an acceptable tax burden to prevent smuggling and a new upsurge in violence to a certain extent. Idiosyncratic and pragmatic approaches by customs seem to play a major role at the local level.