Editor's Review

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has released a report revealing three things that push people in Sub-Saharan Africa to join extremist groups.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has released a report detailing three factors that are pushing people in Sub-Saharan Africa to join extremist groups. 

Sub-Saharan countries include; Kenya, Somalia, Nigeria, Uganda, Sudan, South Africa, Benin, and Ethiopia among others.

According to the UNDP report, lack of job opportunities is the main reason why individuals join extremist groups like Al-Shabaab. The report also cited religious beliefs and human rights abuse as the other main reasons.

"Economic hardship, socioeconomic injustice, and political marginalization, animated by the shortcomings of the state itself fuels voluntary recruitment into violent extremist groups in Africa," the report reads in part. 

The report adds that a specific trigger event is a factor ultimately pushing them to recruitment, with a striking 71 percent pointing to human rights abuse often conducted by state security forces, as ‘the tipping point’.

“Sub-Saharan Africa has become the new global epicenter of violent extremism with 48% of global terrorism deaths in 2021. This surge not only adversely impacts lives, security and peace, but also threatens to reverse hard-won development gains for generations to come.

“Security-driven counter-terrorism responses are often costly and minimally effective, yet investments in preventive approaches to violent extremism are woefully inadequate. The social contract between states and citizens must be reinvigorated to tackle root causes of violent extremism,” UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner said.

File image of Alshabab militia

The report recommends increased investments in basic services, education, child welfare, and investing in the youth as a way of countering and preventing extremism.

“Research shows that those who decide to disengage from violent extremism are less likely to re-join and recruit others. This is why it’s so important to invest in incentives that enable disengagement. Local communities play a pivotal role in supporting sustainable pathways out of violent extremism, along with national governments amnesty programmes,” UNDP Preventing Violent Extremism technical lead in Africa Nirina Kiplagat noted.

The same report indicates that  77% leave Violent Extremism Groups mainly because their expectations were not met while 68 % said they were no longer agreeing with the actions of the group’, or the ideology.