Association for Defending Victims of Terrorism – A lack of job opportunities is the leading factor driving people to join fast-growing violent extremist groups in sub-Saharan Africa, according to a new report released by the UN Development Program.
The report entitled, Journey to Extremism in Africa: Pathways to Recruitment and Disengagement, underscores the importance of economic factors as drivers of recruitment.
Lack of income, the lack of job opportunities and livelihoods, means that “desperation is essentially pushing people to take up opportunities, with whoever offers that”, said Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator, speaking at the report launch.
He added that around 25 per cent of all recruits cited a lack of job opportunities as the primary reason, while around 40 per cent said they were “in urgent need of livelihoods at the time of the recruitment”.
Sub-Saharan Africa has become the new global epicentre of violent extremism with almost half of global terrorism deaths recorded there in 2021.
The report draws from interviews with nearly 2,200 different people in eight countries: Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Mali, Nigher, Nigeria, Somalia, and Sudan.
More than 1,000 of those interviewees are former members of violent extremist groups, both voluntary and forced recruits.
A quarter of those who volunteered said the main factor was unemployment – a 92 percent increase from the last UNDP study of violent extremism in 2017.
Around 48 per cent of voluntary recruits told researchers that there had been “a triggering event” leading to them signing up.
Of that figure, some “71 per cent cited human rights abuses they had suffered, such as government action”, said Nirina Kiplagat, main author of the report and UNDP’s Regional Peacebuilding Advisor.
Religious ideology is the third most common reason for joining up, cited by around 17 percent of interviewees. This presents a 57 percent decrease from the 2017 findings.