Increasing narcotrafficking and a more active Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb are elevating concerns over instability in the Sahel. However, the region’s threats are more complex than what is observable on the surface. Rather, security concerns are typically characterized by multiple, competing, and fluctuating interests at the local, national, and regional levels. Effectively responding to these threats requires in-depth understanding of the multiple contextual layers in which illicit actors operate.
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Combating irregular forces has become a common feature of the contemporary African security landscape. However, the security sector in most African countries is ill-prepared to conduct effective counter-insurgency operations. Realigning force structures to address these threats while building security sector professionalism to gain the trust of local populations is needed to do so.
Estimates are that more than half of all Africans will live in cities by 2025. This rapid pace of urbanization is creating a new locus of fragility in many African states—as evidenced by the burgeoning slums around many of the continent’s urban areas—and the accompanying rise in violence, organized crime, and the potential for instability. These evolving threats, in turn, have profound implications for Africa’s security sector.
Counterterrorism efforts among Sahelian governments remain uncoordinated and too narrowly focused to contain and confront AQIM’s long-term and sophisticated strategy in the region. To prevent AQIM from further consolidating its presence in the Sahel, regional policies must be harmonized and security forces refocused so as to minimize collateral impacts on local communities.
A growing number of Africa’s security challenges—narcotics trafficking, piracy, illegal fishing, and armed robberies, among others—take place at sea. Illicit actors exploit Africa’s maritime space given its expansiveness and the limited number of vessels African governments can field to interdict this activity. Technology can dramatically improve Africa’s maritime security coverage. However, to do so will require engaging Africa’s scientists who can guide and sustain these efforts. This will yield not only security but environmental and meteorological benefits for the continent.
While not often considered a hub in global terrorist networks, South Africa has seen a steady and growing pattern of domestic and al-Qaeda–linked terrorist activity over the past decade. Coinciding with the creeping expansion of terrorist threats in other parts of the continent, this Security Brief examines lessons learned from South Africa’s experience and their potential relevance to other African countries and their security sectors.
Download this Security Brief as a PDF: English | Français | Português Africa is facing an increasingly menacing threat of cocaine trafficking that risks undermining its security structures, nascent democratic institutions, and development progress. Latin America has long faced similar challenges and its experience provides important lessons that can be applied before this expanding threat... Continue Reading
African Migrant Flows Reshaping Security Challenges in Africa By the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, December 18, 2019 The dynamism of clandestine African migration flows continues to present criminal and violent extremist groups opportunities for exploitation. Shifting Borders: Africa’s Displacement Crisis and Its Security Implications By Wendy Williams, October 17, 2019 Recent years have seen... Continue Reading
African states’ maritime security structures are often misaligned with the challenges posed and need coast guard capabilities and an array of intra-governmental partnerships.
A significant development in Africa over the past decade has been the generalized lessening of violent conflict. Revitalized, expanded international peacekeeping, bolstered by a newly launched African Union determination to tackle security challenges, has reinforced this trend. But, much more cohesive interagency coordination under strong White House direction is required if the United States is to contribute to Africa’s sustained stability given the region’s persistent conditions of poverty, inequality, and weak governance.
A Review of Major Regional Security Efforts in the Sahel By the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, March 4, 2019 Increased attacks from militant Islamist groups in the Sahel coupled with cross-border challenges such as trafficking, migration, and displacement have prompted a series of regional and international security responses. [Infographic] Chinese Hard Power Supports Its... Continue Reading