A Mobile Idea of Space. Traders, Patrons and the Cross-Border Economy in Sahelian Africa

Olivier Walther


In the Sahel, the borders still offer suitably fertile ground for informal commerce to bloom. In that context, this article postulates that contemporary cross-border economic activity illustrates one of the foundations of what some geographers called mobile space, i.e. that circulation is the most appropriate method of managing the uncertainty of Sahelian life. The case of the border markets of Gaya (Niger), Malanville (Benin) and Kamba (Nigeria) provides a concrete example. On this "triple point", the study of trade networks suggests that border commerce makes some use of the colonial partition, to the extent that the establishment of boundaries represents not so much a divide as a condition of contemporary economic dynamism.

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Print ISSN: 0886-5655
Online ISSN: 2159-1229