Lack of Job Opportunities Driving Violent Extremism in Africa.
An editorial analysis of the UNDP Report by Robert Stone
A recent report released by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has shed light on the major driving factors behind the increasing recruitment into violent extremist groups in sub-Saharan Africa. The report, “Journey to Extremism in Africa: Pathways to Recruitment and Disengagement,” highlights the crucial role that economic factors play in such recruitment. According to the report, the lack of job opportunities and livelihoods is the primary factor that is driving people to join these groups.
Around 25% of all recruits cited a lack of job opportunities as the primary reason for joining, while 40% said they were in desperate need of livelihoods at the time of their recruitment. The current situation creates a “toxic mix” of poverty, destitution, and lack of opportunity, forcing many to turn to violent extremist groups to provide security. UNDP Administrator, Achim Steiner, stated that security-driven counter-terrorism responses are often costly and minimally effective and that there is an urgent need to invest in preventive approaches to violent extremism.
The report was based on interviews with nearly 2,200 people in eight countries, including Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Mali, Nigher, Nigeria, Somalia, and Sudan. Over 1,000 of these interviewees were former members of violent extremist groups, both voluntary and forced recruits. Around 25% of the voluntary recruits stated that unemployment was the main reason for joining, which is a 92% increase from the last UNDP study of violent extremism in 2017. Peer pressure from family members or friends, religious ideology, and human rights abuses were among the other reasons cited for joining.
The new report calls for greater investment in basic services such as child welfare, education, and rehabilitation and community-based reintegration services. It highlights the importance of moving away from security-driven responses and instead focusing on development-based approaches aimed at prevention. The report also identified factors that drive recruits to leave armed groups, such as unmet financial expectations or a lack of trust in the group’s leadership.
In conclusion, the UNDP report underscores the urgency of addressing economic factors as drivers of recruitment into violent extremist groups in sub-Saharan Africa. With sub-Saharan Africa becoming the new epicenter of violent extremism, it is crucial that policymakers take note of the report’s findings and take action to address the root causes behind this phenomenon. Investment in education, rehabilitation, and community-based reintegration services will not only reduce the number of recruits, but it will also provide a pathway for former members to reintegrate into society. The international community must act now to prevent this problem from escalating further and to protect vulnerable populations from the negative impacts of violent extremism.
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