African terrorism has been on the rise for a while and has recently spiked in Libya, Mali, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Somalia, Tanzania, and Mozambique. The most important and known terrorist groups currently carrying out attacks in Africa include; Allied Democratic Forces, Al Qaeda, Al Shabaab and the Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA), formerly known as Boko Haram. The latter specifically has recently shown an increase of activity, and expansion among multiple countries. The group pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in 2015.

Earlier, we wrote that although the ISIS stronghold in Syria and Iraq seems defeated, the Islamist group is operating globally. Considering the transnational and strategic nature of ISIS, Western media and policymakers touting the victory of ISIS in Syria and Iraq should be wary of the group’s resurgence in Africa. Only recently, the African Union stated that the threat of ISIS in Africa is real. Due to its defeat in Syria and expulsion from the Gulf, the Sahel region is especially becoming more unstable, as the Indian Ocean coastline offers ISIS a way to infiltrate African regions. Somalia’s Puntland has specifically provided an important opportunity to continue the group’s expansion. Simultaneously, the extremist group is gaining influence and expanding its network in North and West Africa by taking advantage of the security vacuum caused by weak or almost absent governance in Libya, Niger, Mali, Nigeria and Chad.

Why is African terrorism gaining strength? Although the majority of Africans are religious moderates, there are multiple factors that drive people to embrace radical Islam. Pull factors include the ideology, the purpose and mission the extremist groups provide, the humanitarian networks, and media propaganda. The complex cocktail of push factors consists, among others, of massive population growth and high youth unemployment, local backlash against forces of globalization, corruption and authoritarian regimes, violations of human rights and a lack of access to basic needs. The negative consequences of climate change, reduced access to food and water due to droughts, further increase tensions. In Embedding Technopolis, Haroon Sheikh argues that, due to urbanization and rapid population growth, many people become uprooted, and since tribal cultures cannot embed people in modernity sufficiently, Christianity and Islam will grow on the continent and radicalism and African terrorism will further rise. In our Hegemonic Framework, we write that terrorist groups will seek to combat modernity. And that in 5 to 15 years, many African countries will be too weak to control massive population growth, and combined with weak national cohesion and institutions, this will lead to chaos, conflict and migration. Leading to an emergence of radical modernization leaders and the growth of African global terrorism.



African Terrorism, Large-scale migration

The Risk Radar is a monthly research report in which we monitor and qualify the world’s biggest risks to watch. Our updates are based on the estimated likelihood and impact of these risks. This report provides an additional ‘risk flection’ from a political, social, economic and technological perspective.
Click here to see the context of this Risk Radar.