The number of terrorist attacks in Africa rose from 330 in 2000 to 2,365 in 2018, according to the Global Terrorism Database.
The sevenfold increase of attacks led to higher military spending in affected countries and their neighbors. Military spending on the continent rose from $10.6 billion in 2000 to $32.8 billion in 2018.
Increasing terrorism also triggered some countries to increase their military spending to match a neighboring country’s expenditure.
Those effects underscore the “urgent need” for collective action to address security threats on the continent. That is according to analysis by
Amadou Boly, special assistant to the chief economist and vice president of African Development Bank; and Eric Nazindigouba Kere, senior evaluation officer at African Development Bank.
The analysts addressed the subject in a recent column for VoxEU and in a working paper titled, “Terrorism and Military Expenditure in Africa: An Analysis of Spillover Effects.”
“As the effects of increased military spending on growth are likely to be negative, our results indicate that terrorism spillover or military spending complementarity can negatively impact a country’s growth, even in the absence of direct terrorist attacks,” Boly and Kere wrote in the working paper.
Boly and Kere recommended that countries consider actively supporting affected countries to fight terrorism before the threat crosses their borders. Such was the case when the Rwanda Defence Force was deployed to Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province in 2021. The Southern African Development Community force later followed.
The analysts argue that regional security mechanisms are much needed. Some already exist, including the G5 Sahel Joint Force, the Multinational Joint Task Force, the Accra Initiative and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Standby Force.
“However, given the multiplicity and overlapping memberships of regional communities or mechanisms, rationalization and consolidation should be prioritized to eradicate resource wastage due to costly duplication, fragmentation, or lack of coordination of activities,” the analysts wrote in VoxEU.
At the continental level, Boly and Kere argued for accelerated revitalization of the
African Peace and Security Architecture, including the implementation of a 0.2% levy on eligible imports to increase the African Union’s financial autonomy.
The analysts say collective action also is needed to support national efforts to eliminate organized crime networks, cybercrime, and trafficking of people, weapons and drugs, all of which support terrorism.
“By curbing financial support to terrorism, international cooperation can weaken the ability of terrorists to operate and reduce the frequency and prevalence of terrorist attacks,” Boly and Kere wrote in VoxEU.
They also called for governance reforms to strengthen public financial management, promote transparency and accountability in public service, and combat corruption, which are root causes of terrorism.
Since 2018, the final year analyzed by Boly and Kere, terrorism on the continent has accelerated.
Nearly half of all global terrorism-related deaths occurred in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2021. Four of the 10 countries most affected were Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Somalia, where 34% of terrorism-related deaths happened, according to the United Nations.
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In Kenya alone, attacks linked to al-Shabaab increased from 51 in 2021 to 77 in 2022, a 26% increase, according to a report by the Center for Human Rights and Policy Studies.
The attacks resulted in 116 fatalities — up from 100 in 2021 — including 42 civilians. Most of the attacks were concentrated near Kenya’s border with Somalia.
ECOWAS’ 15 member nations recorded more than 1,800 terrorist attacks resulting in almost 4,600 deaths in the first six months of 2023, according to the U.N.
The attacks were concentrated in Burkina Faso, which recorded 2,725 deaths; Mali, which reported 77 deaths; Niger with 77 deaths; and Nigeria, where 70 people were killed.
Omar Touray, president of the ECOWAS Commission, said that increased attacks in Benin and Togo are a “stark indication of the expansion of terrorism to littoral states, a situation that poses additional threat to the region,” according to a U.N. report.
Touray told the U.N. Security Council in late July that regional military chiefs have proposed two options to stem the spread of terrorism: establish a 5,000-strong brigade at an annual cost of $2.3 billion, or deploy troops on demand at an annual cost of $360 million.