UN: Unemployment Driving Armed Groups in Sub-Saharan Africa

UN: Unemployment Driving Armed Groups in Sub-Saharan Africa
Last updated Feb 07, 2023
Image credit: AFP [via Al Jazeera]


  • A report published by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) on Tuesday found that unemployment is the main force driving people to join armed groups in sub-Saharan Africa, which has become a global epicenter of violent extremism.
  • The study was based on interviews with over 2K people in eight countries, including more than 1K former fighters that are currently detained. A quarter of voluntary recruits cited needing money as their primary reason for joining, while less than one-fifth cited religious ideology.
  • This represents a new trend. The accounts of unemployment as the main driver for recruitment have increased by 92% from the 2017 UNDP study of violent extremism.
  • Nearly half of the voluntary recruits stated that a so-called trigger event led them to sign up — with over two-thirds mentioning human rights abuses often carried out by government forces as the "tipping point."
  • Compared to the control group comprised of 1K individuals from the same communities, those enlisting in armed groups have lower levels of education and higher mistrust in government. An additional year of school reduced by 13% the likelihood of recruitment.
  • As poverty, destitution, and lack of opportunity leave individuals vulnerable to the likes of the Islamic State group, Boko Haram, and al-Qaeda, the report recommends moving away from security-driven responses to development-based approaches focused on prevention.


Establishment-critical narrative

Throughout decades of military intervention in sub-Saharan Africa, the Sahel, and the Horn, the world has seen that combat solutions don't work. As nations like the US continue to drop bombs — which have killed countless civilians — local recruitment only increases. The West has known this fact since long before 9/11 and the "War on Terror," but, hopefully, this report will finally help bring military intervention to an end and replace it with more humane economic and political programs.

Pro-establishment narrative

To claim that the US and its Western allies only go to Africa for military exploits is preposterous. The US military provides food aid and disaster relief and supports democracy throughout the continent. Counter-terrorism is a broad term that, when looked at closely, includes all of the non-combat aspects that those opposed to military intervention talk about.

Establishment split



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