The cross-border areas of the Horn of Africa have historically suffered from under-investment.  They have some of the highest poverty rates in the region, exacerbated by ever more frequent drought. Environmental stress and competition over dwindling resources has repeatedly sparked conflict. Political and economic exclusion, as well as growing inequalities, has added to grievances that fuel discontent and radicalisation. The borderlands act as a transit point for considerable numbers of displaced populations and migrants. They also provide fertile ground for criminal networks of traffickers and smugglers. The combination of these factors has led many of these areas to be stuck in recurrent or protracted crises.

Despite these challenges, there are now significant opportunities in the cross-border areas.  These include decentralisation; commercial opportunities, such as in the livestock sector; major infrastructure investments; the homogeneity of societies across borders, which carries the potential for flourishing trade and exchanges; better use of agricultural land, oil, minerals and other natural resources; and renewable energy, such as solar and wind power. National, regional and international actors are now paying much greater attention to the cross-border areas, in view of their strategic importance.

While each individual country may have its own specific national priorities and programs, the communities that inhabit cross-border areas face common challenges and are often interconnected through, inter alia, natural resource sharing, livestock movement, regional trade and trans-boundary human and animal diseases. These unifying factors, including space, water and pasture, markets and infrastructure; as well as the common challenges, such as vulnerability to common shocks and stresses, such as drought and conflicts, cannot be tackled through national programs alone as they demand cross-border collaboration and coordinated interventions; and are all are typical entry points that form ideal targets when considering cross-border development. 

Cross-border aspects in the implementation of IDDRSI.

In the Summit held in Nairobi in September 2011, which led to the launching of the IGAD Drought Disaster Resilience and Sustainability Initiative (IDDRSI), the Heads of State and Government of the HOA region made a collective decision to end drought emergencies in the region and agreed to embark on regional projects to address the underlying causes of vulnerability in drought-prone areas through cross-border cooperation. 

 “As we pursue the above strategies in our respective countries, we are cognizant of the fact that the arid lands of the Horn of Africa extend across national boundaries. Indeed, much of the countries in the HOA are under the same climatic zone; and when drought occurs, it affects most, if not all, of these countries concurrently. Thus, it is abundantly clear that close collaboration among the countries in the region will be of essence, if we are to succeed in our shared goal of ending drought emergencies now and in the future”. 

IDDRSI-projects, comprising harmonized, mutli-sectoral, holistic interventions that require cross-border cooperation among neighboring countries are being initiated in different areas of the IGAD region, in a coordinated manner. A successful cross-border program would be beneficial for all the border communities, contribute to the economic stability of the affected countries and the region, in addition to the other advantages of strategic cooperation. Cross-border cooperation in the implementation of IDDRSI is made imperative by the recognition that changes on one side of the border can have spill over effects, positive or negative, on the other. 


Establishment of the Cross-border Development Facilitation Unit at Moroto, Uganda. 

The IGAD Secretariat was mandated to address the challenges of cross-border implementation of projects aimed at building resilience within the framework of IDDRSI. To this end it was agreed that there would be need for the establishment of an IGAD Coordination Office to oversee the activities undertaken in the development of cross-border areas, such as the Karamoja Cluster. 

In view of the widely acknowledged necessity for cross-border cooperation in the implementation of IDDRSI; and within the framework of the recommendations and collective decision made by IGAD Member States and partners, IGAD, with the support of identified partners, plans to establish a Cross-border Development Facilitation Unit in Moroto to facilitate cooperation in the implementation of IDDRSI, among the 4 countries (Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and South Sudan) that share boundaries in the Karamoja Cluster. The facilitation unit at Moroto will be the first of several others that, in due course, will be established in other areas in the region where cross-border cooperation in the implementation of IDDRSI will be needed. 

Collaboration in the development of cross-border areas in the Horn of Africa region. 

In partnership with IGAD, UNDP and Germany, the EU has sought innovative approaches and initiated projects to make the borderlands more prosperous and stable. By supporting national and local governments as well as communities and the private sector on all sides of the borders, through investment in conflict prevention, cross-border trade and private sector development, it is expected that livelihoods will be improved and diversified; and the management of shared natural resources will be improved. This will give people living in these cross-border areas better prospects, a greater sense of belonging, and create shared interests across communities and borders.


The first phase of the projects will take place along two main axes. The first is along the Ethiopia and Kenya border, and including Somalia. This includes the cross-border area of Southwest Ethiopia and Northwest Kenya (encompassing South Omo in Ethiopia, and Turkana in Kenya) and Kenya-Somalia-Ethiopia (encompassing Mandera, Gedo and Doolow). The project will also contribute to an existing UN-managed programme encompassing Marsabit County in Kenya and Borana Zone in Ethiopia. The second axis is on the Ethiopia-Sudan border in an area of Western Ethiopia and East Sudan.


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  • The IGAD region covers an area of 5.2 million km2
  • IGAD region has a population of more than 240 million people
  • The region is endowed with a considerable range of natural resources, with a huge potential for a variety wealth creation and progress.
  • About 70% of the IGAD region comprises arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs) that receive less than 600mm in annual rainfall and are characterized by recurrent drought.
  • Over the years, severity and frequency of droughts have been increasing and desertification, land degradation, global warming and related climate change phenomena exacerbated it
  • The IGAD region has a strategic place in the Horn of Africa.
  • IGAD is focused for regional economic cooperation and integration.
  • The ultimate goal of IGAD is the welfare of its population in the form of human security and to maintain peace and security for sustainable development

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