My research focuses on trade and political violence in West Africa. Using social network analysis, I study how informal traders have adapted to transformations affecting the global economy by developing transnational networks that rely on ethnic, religious or business ties. I am also interested in understanding how violent extremist organizations operate using pre-existing social networks, how they extend their activities across borders, and what are their connections to insurgencies in Africa.
Over the last ten years, I have served as a lead investigator or partner on externally funded research projects from the United Nations World Food Program, the European Commission, the OECD, the European Spatial Planning Observatory, the governments of Luxembourg and Denmark, and the Carlsberg Foundation. I have also collaborated with the World Bank Trade Unit and the United Nations Counter-terrorism Executive Directorate.
Currently, I am coordinating the Cities and Borders program of the OECD. This project builds on a memorandum of understanding signed by the University of Florida and the Sahel and West Africa Club (SWAC) of the OECD in Paris on March 22, 2017. The collaboration aims to better anticipate changes in border cities within the Sahel and elsewhere in West Africa. The two-year program involves research activities dedicated to cities and borders and on policy initiatives aiming at facilitating exchange among researchers, policy-makers and the civil society.
I am also leading an international research network funded by the Danish government that focuses on transnational extremist organizations, with a particular focus on African armed groups. Combining network science and political science we aim at developing a mixed-methods approach to transnational extremist organizations that can simultaneously take into account their social networks, political motivations, and spatial patterns. Our new book African Border Disorders, edited with Bill Miles of Northeastern University, was published in September 2017 with Routledge. Download the flyer here.
Finally, I coordinate the Gender and Markets: Empowering Women in West African Markets project of the World Food Program with Leena Hoffmann and Paul Melly, both at Chatham House. We conduct a gendered analysis of regulatory, political and social frameworks that impact on women’s empowerment in agricultural markets and value chains in West Africa. This research contributes to an improved understanding of gendered patterns and frameworks as well as explore options for the humanitarian community to fully integrate women’s empowerment into market-based interventions in West Africa.
In the past, I have led or participated in several other research projects dedicated to European and African borders. From 2013 to 2016, I have worked on two programs funded by the OECD, which resulted in the publication of the Atlas of the Sahel-Sahara and of Cross-border Co-operation and Policy Networks in West Africa. Before that, I led two other international collaborations focusing on cross-border trade in West Africa: the WANETS project with Rutgers University Professor Allen Howard, and the CROSSTRADE project with the University of Niamey. While in Luxembourg, I have also participated in the MetroNet, Metrolux, GEOSPECS and METROBORDER projects on European cross-border city-regions. Finally, before the war broke out in Mali, I was involved in the Hombori Project led by the University of Neuchâtel in Switzerland.
A full list of research projects is available in my CV.
My Google Scholar profile is here.