Additional Reading on Africa Security Trends

(See more recent readings on this topic here.)

The Growing Complexity of Farmer-Herder Conflict in West and Central Africa

By Leif Brottem, July 12, 2021

The rise of farmer-herder violence in Africa is more pernicious than fatality figures alone since it is often amplified by the emotionally potent issues of ethnicity, religion, culture, and land.

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.

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.

War in Resource-Rich Northern Mozambique—Six Scenarios

By Francisco Almeida dos Santos, CMI (Chr. Michelsen Institute), July 14, 2020

Northern Mozambique’s expanding violence is more than just an Islamist insurgency: its political history, ethnicity, as well as the interests of past and present political figures, private security enterprises, and multinational extractive corporations have all contributed to the surge of violence. The security forces’ confused approach, as well as the government’s blackout of media coverage raises more questions about government intentions than it does about ISIS infiltration.

Change Ahead: Experience and Awareness of Climate Change in Africa

By Edem E. Selormey, Mavis Zupork Dome, Lionel Osse, and Carolyn Logan, Afrobarometer, August 31, 2019

African countries are among the world’s most vulnerable to and least prepared for climate change. African citizens prioritize issues that are related to climate change, such as water supply, food shortages, and agriculture. Rising temperatures and changing rainfall patterns have devastated African countries that depend on agriculture. Only about 3 in 10 Africans are fully “climate change literate,” combining awareness of climate change with basic knowledge about its causes and negative effects. Building climate resilience will require commitment and coordination, backed by significant resources and a population that supports prioritizing it.

Shoring Up Stability: Addressing Climate and Fragility Risks in the Lake Chad Region

By Janani Vivekananda, Martin Wall, Florence Sylvestre, Chitra Nagarajan, Adelphi, May 31, 2019

This climate-fragility risk assessment identifies the key drivers for future conflict drawing on hydrological data, satellite observations, and interviews across Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, and Niger. Dramatic changes in temperature and growing population density have added strain to the areas surrounding Lake Chad. Clearer land rights that allow farmers, fishermen, and pastoralists to use the same land would improve efficiency and reduce the risk of exacerbating conflict.

Speaking with the “Bad Guys”: Toward Dialogue with Central Mali’s Jihadists

By International Crisis Group, May 28, 2019

The level of violence in Central Mali is higher than anywhere else in the country. Thousands of civilians have been killed since 2015. The conflict between the state and the Katiba Macina has reached a stalemate but intercommunal violence is also increasing, at times as a proxy to other conflicts. The Malian government should work with religious leaders to pursue ceasefires and talks with militants and local communities. New lines of communication with Katiba Macina leaders and sympathizers would facilitate communication about the unaddressed grievances that cause conflict in the region.

The Many Drivers Enabling Violent Extremism in Northern Mozambique

By Gregory Pirio, Robert Pittelli, and Yussuf Adam, May 20, 2019

The violent extremist threat in northern Mozambique exploits underlying societal vulnerabilities of inequity, insecure land rights, and distrust of authorities.

Heart of Africa’s Organised Crime: Land, Property and Urbanization

By Eric Scheye, ENACT Policy Brief, May 9, 2019

Africa’s largest organized criminal activity is in land allocation, real estate, and property development, particularly in urban areas. Africa’s urban population is projected to double by 2035 and half of all Africans will live in urban areas. To minimize vulnerability to the corruption and crime that hinder citizen-centered urban development, enhancing transparency and engagement, such as issuing occupancy certificates to residents in informal settlements and engaging neighborhood organizations in local mapping exercises will be necessary.

China in Cameroon’s Forests

By International Institute for Environment and Development, March 31, 2019

In Cameroon, Chinese investment through the Belt and Road Initiative is estimated to be worth double the country’s other investment sources combined. These infrastructure and agricultural investments, focused on forest areas, have created 12,000 jobs. China, Cameroon’s largest purchaser of timber, relies on Cameroonian forests for 85% of its imported raw logs. Poor governance and corruption enable unsustainable timber exploitation and illegal logging, damaging fragile ecosystems and threatening livelihoods for rural communities.

How China Got Sri Lanka to Cough Up a Port

By Maria Abi-Habib, New York Times, July 2, 2018

China’s infrastructure deals are ubiquitous across Africa. The motivations behind these deals vary, however. This investigative report details how China leveraged the indebtedness of Sri Lanka to effectively force it to cede a port to China. The experience has implications for the debt trap many African countries face, especially with China, as well as for China’s interest in acquiring strategic assets in Africa, military and intelligence interests in China’s commercial activity, oversight over major infrastructure and natural resource contracts including China’s Belt and Road Initiative on the continent, Chinese influence in foreign elections, and risks to African sovereignty.

How China Fuels Deforestation In Nigeria, West Africa

By Dayo Aiyetan, International Centre for Investigative Reporting, January 18, 2018

Chinese demand for Nigerian rosewood has created a lucrative, yet illegal commercial logging sector in Nigeria’s eastern states. The Nigerian government has chosen profits over environmental protection or the rule of law. Corruption that ranges from bribery of forestry guards to misrepresentation of logging shipments bound for Chinese ports has created the conditions for illegal logging to continue—at least until resources run out and loggers move to the next state. The extensive environmental impacts of illegal logging include increased flooding, erosion, and the removal of animal and plant ecosystems, which leaves certain species facing extinction. Illegal logging also denies communities a source of food and livelihoods.

Lessons from Gambia on Effective Regional Security Cooperation

By Paul Nantulya, March 27, 2017

ECOWAS leadership in the Gambia crisis offers lessons for future regional security cooperation in Africa.

Protection through Mobility: Opening Labor and Study Migration Channels to Refugees

By Katy Long and Sarah Rosengaertner, Migration Policy Institute, October 31, 2016

Legal labor migration and study visas, in parallel with resettlement and asylum channels, would positively connect the security needs of both refugees and host countries and make the task of integrating new arrivals easier. Refugees could meet labor needs or fill university places which have support systems in place. The specific needs of refugees as well as program flexibility to address temporary or long-term needs must be carefully considered. But making even small changes to existing programs to be more accessible to refugees could be politically feasible.

Boat Migration across the Central Mediterranean: Drivers, Experiences and Responses

By MEDMIG, September 30, 2016

Those crossing the Mediterranean from Libya have been described as either refugees or economic migrants. The reality is somewhere in between. The drivers of migration are complex and often interrelated. The most common driver is insecurity which, according to interviewees of this report, came from armed nonstate actors, land disputes, political persecution, or localized situations of civil unrest. Interviewees spoke of violence due to their political affiliation, the threat of imprisonment, and facing corrupt or unfair legal processes, all of which not only put their lives in jeopardy, but also impeded their ability to provide for their families.

Survive and Advance: The Economics of Smuggling Refugees and Migrants into Europe

By Tuesday Reitano and Peter Tinti, Institute for Security Studies & The Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime, December 1, 2015

Africans from throughout the continent have long sought entrance to Europe for diverse reasons. Such movement has swelled since 2011, when the fall of the Qaddafi regime in Libya opened a convenient and hassle-free transit point for people smugglers. A global surge in refugees supercharged these existing African networks, with customers from Syria flying visa-free to Sudan and engaging people smugglers for passage into Europe. The growth of these networks has fueled increased human exploitation, illicit finance, and border penetration, and invites concern that they may transform into durable and corrosive transnational crime networks.

Future (Im)perfect? Mapping Conflict, Violence, and Extremism in Africa

By Jakkie Cilliers, October 16, 2015

Africa hosts a disproportionate level of conflict compared to other regions in the world. Since 2011, there has been an upsurge in fatalities attributed to violent Islamist extremism, mostly as a result of Boko Haram. Nonetheless, other types of political violence are still responsible for more incidents and higher levels of casualties than Islamist extremist violence in Africa. These conflicts often result from high youth unemployment and lack of political inclusion. Thus, while countering violent extremism should remain a security priority, governments must also put adequate effort toward improving accountability and capability to provide inclusive security and economic opportunity for citizens.

Behind Bars, the Detention of Migrants in and from the East and Horn of Africa

By RMMS, February 28, 2015

The use of detention is widespread in the main destination and transit countries affecting migrants in and from countries in East Africa and the Horn. Instead of being a measure of last resort, detention of migrants is a routine practice in some of these countries. Though many states consider detention to be a deterrence measure, in fact, more migrants are on the move in the region in spite of the threat of it. The threat of detention has fueled the smuggling economy, which has become too lucrative to ignore and corrupted many a state official.

Africa’s International Borders as Potential Sources of Conflict and Future Threats to Peace and Security

By Francis Nguendi Ikome, Institute for Security Studies, May 31, 2012

Although Africa’s current security challenges are predominantly governance-related or intra-state conflicts, the continent’s ill-defined national borders remain a potent source of instability. In fact, more than half of all African countries have engaged in boundary-related conflicts, and border disputes are a strong undercurrent affecting ongoing regional crises in the Great Lakes and the Horn of Africa. Africa’s regional bodies needs to develop stronger mechanisms to manage the disputes and threats that arise across the continent’s many uncertain boundaries.

African Futures 2050

By Jakkie Cilliers, Barry Hughes and Jonathan Moyer, Institute for Security Studies, August 15, 2011

Major transitions are rapidly reshaping Africa. Economic growth has accelerated, longstanding conflicts are being addressed, and support for democracy is widespread. However, rapid urbanization and changing economic structures are amplifying sociopolitical disruption and crime and domestic militancy are growing. These challenges are typically complex and intertwined. Reversing them will ultimately require building more effective and accountable state institutions.

Urban Fragility and Security in Africa

By Stephen Commins, April 30, 2011

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.

Africa’s Irregular Security Threats: Challenges for U.S. Engagement

By Andre Le Sage, Institute for National Strategic Studies, 2010

African states face a wide array of unconventional threats that generally are transnational and interconnected. The many domestic militant groups, international criminal enterprises, and democratic governance and institutional deficits common across the continent require multi-dimensional strategies bounded by the rule of law, vigorously implemented by African leaders, and continually supported by international partners.

Africa: Confronting Complex Threats

By Kwesi Aning, International Peace Institute, Sep. 2009

Africa’s security challenges are increasingly defined by fragmentation of political authority, mounting political influence of armed sub-state actors, and increased vigilantism. The reliance of nonstate combatants on external sources of funding and logistical support, meanwhile, underscores that peace and security on the continent is closely linked to the cooperation of contiguous countries.

U.S. Security Engagement in Africa

By William M. Bellamy, Sep. 2009

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.

West Africa: Governance and Security in a Changing Region

By Abdel Fatau Musah, International Peace Institute, Feb. 2009

Militant and terrorist groups are a prime source of insecurity in West Africa, but the management of natural resources, market for illicit goods, border administration, and other factors drive and shape the sub-region’s threats. To more effectively confront them, governments and civil society within the ECOWAS subregional bloc must collaborate to ensure both national ownership and the strengthening of collective security.

Africa 2008–09: Retrospective Look at the Past Year and Forecast for the New Year

By Institute for Security Studies, 2009

Good overview of the breadth of current security challenges and flashpoints on a subregion by subregion basis. Thoughtful, informative, balanced, accessible, and policy relevant.

Africa: Many Hills to Climb

By Michelle Sieff, World Policy Institute, 2008

The author makes thoughtful predictions on what Africa will look like in 25 years, with attention paid to security, al Qaeda, democracy, and economics.

Conflict Trends in Africa, 1946–2004

By Monty Marshall, Africa Conflict Prevention Pool, 2005

Evidence-based analysis of Africa’s conflict trends over the past 60 years. Captures overall decline and shifts in types of conflict facing Africa over this time. Highlights the challenges of state formation instability and the politics of ethnic exclusion.

Security Topics:  Africa Security Trends