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.
Development efforts to stabilize conflict-affected regions should focus on a wider geographic area than those that are most fragile. Strengthening the resilience of outlying regions can help prevent deterioration in these locations while providing a more solid base of support for areas affected by crisis. This may require intensifying agriculture and strengthening markets in peri-urban and rural areas where displaced persons are living. Private sector investments can also be encouraged in these areas by reducing the risks investors face. Development efforts must simultaneously amplify the voices of effective local leaders and institutions while improving public sector effectiveness.
The growing share of Africa’s urban residents living in slums is creating a further source of fragility. In response, some cities are implementing integrated urban development strategies that link local government, police, the private sector, and youth to strengthen social cohesion and enhance stability.
Cities will host more than 60% of the world’s population by 2030, with much of this growth occurring in Africa. Such rapid urbanization and the ensuing socioeconomic division already challenge governments, and continued unplanned growth may leave cities more impoverished, dangerous, and at risk to political and economic shocks. States should build urban resilience to these forces by decentralizing municipal governance; empowering local communities; developing inclusive public services (such as public transit or sanitation); and instituting long-term urban plans that prioritize public goods and infrastructure.
There is a tipping point at which once the perceived level of institutional corruption is reached, the peace experienced in a country plummets—for every slight rise in perceived corruption, a large decrease in peace follows. Most vulnerable are the institutions of security (the police and judiciary). Once a citizen believes they can no longer rely on the police or legal system to protect them, a country becomes extremely vulnerable to insecurity. Eradicating the corruption within security institutions, therefore, must be the first step in assistance designed to reduce violence and improve peace.
Insecurity related to socioeconomic marginalization remains a persistent challenge facing African countries as they attempt to bridge the gap between democratic aspirations and consolidation. One of the primary root causes of continued insecurity is poor governance. The AU has created numerous instruments and normative frameworks to help African countries achieve their goals—from the African Peer Review Mechanism to the African Governance Architecture. Political will and stronger partnerships between citizens, their governments, regional and international participants must be formed to promote effective governance from the ground up.
A broad swath of Malians were surveyed to help uncover the source of the country’s governance and security crisis experienced in 2012. A key takeaway was that the current system of political interaction is dysfunctional. To promote an integrated peace and development agenda, institutional reform must involve more diverse local actors, particularly women and young people. It should not rely on traditional religious or cultural leaders and established civil society organizations lest it risk sustaining politics of exclusion.
One and a half billion people live in areas affected by fragility, conflict, or large-scale, organized criminal violence, and no low-income fragile or conflict-affected country has yet to achieve a single United Nations Millennium Development Goal. Strengthening legitimate institutions with an aim to provide citizen security, justice, and jobs is crucial to break such cycles of violence, fragility, and weak development.
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Governance failures and shortcomings are a prime source of instability and violence as they contribute to state failure. Many international partners working with the UN, African Union, and non-governmental organizations are scaling up their capacity to deploy teams of wide-ranging civilian experts to assist states during such governance shortfalls in order to prevent crises and restore security and stability.
Africa’s intrastate conflicts and their cross-border consequences continue to hobble development of social anchors that are critical to state stability. These social and development hurdles are hindering Africa’s ability to establish secure, democratic, and economically prosperous states. At bottom, “the challenge facing sub-Saharan Africa is not state building as many analysts believe. The immediate challenge most of Africa faces is society building.”
U.S. interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan have laid bare deficiencies in U.S. policies and capacities for fostering development and stabilization in conflict-affected contexts. This has led to greater integration of U.S. military and civilian efforts to overcome these challenges. While progress has been made, significant imbalances between development and security assistance remain.
Poor countries are more vulnerable to crisis, be it economic, humanitarian, or open conflict. Cross-national analysis, however, shows that the development performance of low-income democracies significantly outpaces that of autocracies – and do so with less volatility. Sustaining democratization, therefore, is a priority for attaining both development and security objectives.
The author examines nine cases in which the work of development agencies exacerbated or ameliorated the root causes of conflict. This permits some generalizations about the efficacy or deleterious effects of development programs on conflict — and of their futility when the conflict-prevention dimension of international assistance efforts is ignored.
Security Topics: Security and Development