Lack of jobs is the main driver of violent extremism in sub-Saharan Africa: UNDP

The report titled The Path to Extremism in Africa: Pathways to Recruitment and Dismissalhighlights the importance of economic factors as drivers of hiring.

The Despair Factor

Lack of income, lack of employment opportunities and livelihood means that “despair is essentially pushing people to take advantage of opportunities with those who offer it“, said Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator speaking at the presentation of the report.

He added that about 25% of all recruits indicated a lack of job opportunities as the main reason, while about 40 percent said they were “urgently in need of livelihood at the time of recruitment”.

Sub-Saharan Africa has become new global epicenter violent extremism, where almost half of the deaths from global terrorism were recorded in 2021.

The report is based on interviews with almost 2,200 different people in eight countries: Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Somalia and Sudan.

In their own words

More than 1,000 of those interviewed are former members of violent extremist groups, recruited both voluntarily and under duress.

A quarter of the volunteers cited unemployment as the main factor. 92 percent more than the latest UNDP study violent extremism in 2017.

About 48% of the volunteers told the researchers that a “trigger event” had occurred that led to their enrollment.

Abuse also promotes recruitment

Of that number, about “71% referred to the human rights violations they suffered, such as government action,” said Nirina Kiplagat, lead author of the report and UNDP Regional Peacebuilding Adviser.

Major human rights violations such as father was arrested or brother was taken away national armed forces were among the triggers mentioned.

According to the report, peer pressure from family members or friends is cited as the second most common recruitment factor, including women who follow their spouses into an extremist group.

Religious ideology is the third most common reason for joining, which was named by about 17% of respondents. This is 57% less than in 2017.

Families from Nigeria who fled the Boko Haram attacks in Nigeria take refuge in Diffa, Niger.

Development Based Remedies

The new report is part of a series of three reports focused on preventing violent extremism. It emphasizes the urgent need to move from safety-based responses to development-based approaches focused on prevention, the UNDP said.

It calls for increased investment in basic services, including child welfare, education, and calls for investment in community-based rehabilitation and reintegration services.

Mr. Steiner said a “toxic mix” of poverty, indigence and lack of opportunity is being created, with many referring to “We urgently need to find a livelihood.” It is tantamount to society.”no longer having the rule of law, turning to some of these violent extremist groups for security“.

Security-based counterterrorism responses are often costly and minimally effective, the UNDP administrator said, and investments in preventive approaches to violent extremism are insufficient.

Terrorist groups like ISIS, Boko Haram, or al-Qaeda spring up from local conditions, but then start accumulating weapons and funding—in the case of the Sahel, allowing other cells to provide their own resources.

The lack of job opportunities in places like Niger (pictured) pushes many people into extremist groups.

© UN News/Daniel Dickinson

The lack of job opportunities in places like Niger (pictured) pushes many people into extremist groups.

No surprises

The geopolitical dimension should not surprise anyone“, Mr. Steiner said, in cases where states are no longer able to provide the rule of law or meaningful national security, “then the opportunity for other actors to be part of this drama is growing exponentiallywe saw it in Mali, we saw it in Libya, we saw it in the Horn of Africa.”

Based on interviews, the report also identified factors that encourage recruits to leave armed groups, such as unfulfilled financial expectations or lack of trust in the group’s leadership.

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