This chapter explores shifting perspectives on African clandestine economies, with a particular focus on the recent transition from criminalization to hybrid governance approaches. Previously condemned as products of clientism and corruption, clandestine economies are attracting renewed interest for their developmental potential in weak state contexts. Focusing on examples of clandestine cross-border trade in East and West Africa, this chapter shows that increasingly favourable perspectives on the developmental implications of African clandestine economies reflect a change in development policy narratives rather than a shift in the empirical conduct of clandestine trading systems. Indeed, the optimistic turn in perspectives on African clandestine trade often contradicts the empirical realities of the cases on which they focus. Research perspectives have tended to reflect the perceived compatibility of smuggling with policy priorities of liberalization and globalization, revealing the prominent role of ideology in shaping the framing of smuggling research.