Analysis by Amira Kaba
A new report released by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) sheds light on the growing trend of terrorist recruitment in Africa and the driving factors behind it. The report highlights the critical role that economic factors play in this growing phenomenon.
According to the report, there has been a 57% decrease in the number of people joining extremist groups for religious reasons, compared to the 2017 findings. On the other hand, a staggering 92% increase was observed in the number of new recruits joining these groups for better livelihoods. This shift in motivation highlights the lack of progress made in reducing poverty, unemployment, and ethnic marginalization in the continent.
The report is based on interviews conducted with nearly 2,200 individuals in eight countries: Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Somalia, and Sudan. A significant number of those interviewees, over 1,000, were former members of violent extremist groups.
The report also highlights the alarming trend of human rights abuse by state security forces, which affects 71% of those who join the extremist groups. The surge of extremism in Africa poses a significant threat to the hard-won development gains made in the continent and, according to UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner, threatens to reverse these gains for generations to come.
Investments in security-driven counter-terrorism responses have proven to be costly and minimally effective, and investments in preventive approaches to violent extremism are inadequate. To tackle the root causes of violent extremism, the social contract between states and citizens must be reinvigorated.
Terrorist groups are exploiting poverty, unemployment, and ethnic marginalization to recruit thousands in Africa, says Ahmed Sultan, an expert in extremist group affairs. The fragility of most African economies makes the continent a prime target for these groups, and as economic conditions worsen, it is expected that the number of recruits will increase.
Mohamed El Amine Ould Dah, an expert on African Sahel affairs, stated that the major powers are preoccupied with their geopolitical conflicts and have no interest in fighting terrorism in the continent. Unemployment and ethnic marginalization, among other factors, are driving thousands of young people to join these groups.
In conclusion, the UNDP report highlights the need for a more comprehensive approach to address the root causes of terrorism in Africa. Addressing poverty, unemployment, and ethnic marginalization, and reinvigorating the social contract between states and citizens are crucial steps in the right direction.