By Doriane Nguenang, Legal Intern, Tipograph Law LLC.

In recent years, Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) has been home to increased threats including violence and terrorism. Terrorism particularly hampers economic development in SSA countries. While political instability and corruption may stand in the way of implementing an effective holistic approach to combatting terrorism, a recently published report proposes certain security strategies that SSA governments have the means and incentive to implement in the meantime.

Terrorist attacks in SSA recently multiplied by empowered terrorist groups following the Arab Spring in Northern Africa in 2011. Seizing on the chaos, lack of a strong consolidated regime and collapsed legal system in Libya following the overthrow of Colonel Muammar Gadhafi in 2011, terrorist groups, particularly the Islamic State (ISIS) have seized territory and power across the continent.[1]  ISIS’s rise to power inspired other terrorist groups, such as Boko Haram and Al Shabab, and the various terrorist groups have aligned themselves into a strong international terrorist network spanning Africa and beyond through the Middle East.[2]  In SSA, the terror attacks tripled from 400 in 2008 to almost 1200 in 2012.[3]

Securing SSA in the face of terrorism is a top priority for SSA governments that must attempt to sustain economic growth and population development, which tend to be inhibited in the presence of violence.   For example, Al Shabaab activities have caused tourism in Kenya to decrease by 25 percent, which has a ripple effect on jobs and income.[4] Insufficient security also stifles foreign direct investment demand, chills innovation and immobilizes workforces.[5] Foreign direct investment in Nigeria, for instance, decreased by 21 percent between 2011 and 2012 as a result of Boko Haram attacks.[6]  The weakened institutional structures in afflicted SSA countries have also hindered conflict resolution and overall stabilization.[7]

In the presence of rampant violence, improved security is the first step towards economic growth.  Security and development are sufficient and necessary for each other as Koffi Annan, former UN Secretary General, explains: “In an increasingly interconnected world, progress in the areas of development, security and human rights must go hand in hand. There will be no development without security and no security without development. And both development and security also depend on respect for human rights and the rule of law.” [8]

Law enforcement in Sub-Saharan African cities is currently poorly equipped to address this rising threat.  General lack of transparency coupled with political instability, corruption and little to no law enforcement that inhibit democratic governance and economic development in SSA have facilitated the expansion of terrorism.[9] Corruption is of greater concern because it hampers the adherence to basic rule of law.[10] What is more troubling is the “skewed implementation of the separation of powers doctrine, characterised by timid judiciaries and legislatures run by the executive”.[11] This creates an incentive for SSA governments to act against terrorism. Terrorism is a direct threat to their power.

The March 2017 report, “Securing Global Cities: Best Practices, Innovation, and the Path Ahead” by the Global Cities Initiative, a joint project of the Brookings Institution and JPMorgan Chase, provides a framework of best practices to counter terrorism in global cities identified after different exchanges between the authors and several leaders, government officials, and experts in several cities in five countries.[12]  SSA governments can learn from these practices and adapt them to their unique experiences and characteristics.  Many of the suggested practices are low-cost solutions that simply require mindfulness from leadership.  To the extent such practices are not already implemented, SSA governments should take the necessary steps to do so.

One such practice is improving community policing. The principles of community policing that can be applied in the context of SSA include:

  • Decentralizing decisions as they pertain to security;
  • Assigning officers in some neighborhoods with the goal of encouraging communication and strengthening relations and trust with communities;
  • Diversifying the police force to reflect the different ethnic groups of the community served, and having a police force that consists of several residents of the community to further encourage trust with communities;
  • Cooperating with the community at large (i.e. local businesses) to determine dangers and solutions to crime and with other authorities (i.e. border services) to learn more about criminal activity;
  • Training officers on how to interact with communities and better equipping them.

Other practices that may require more funds but are essential in the fight against terrorism include:

  • Promoting social cohesion and developing initiatives or projects (i.e. infrastructure projects to create employment opportunities and education) to steer individuals, targeted by terrorist networks’ recruitment efforts, away from the web of terrorism;
  • Increasing human resource, and information sharing horizontally and vertically within and across countries;
  • Leveraging technology to “carefully study crime data by zone and neighborhood to figure out how to deploy police assets most efficiently, frequently updating their priorities as circumstances and crime patterns shift.”[13]





[1] “Terrorism in Sub-Saharan Africa.” Accessed March 20, 2017.

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] “Preventing and Responding to Violent Extremism in Africa: A Development Approach.” 4-5. Accessed March 20, 2017.

[5] Odierno, Raymond, and Michael O’Hanlon. “Securing Global Cities: Best Practices, Innovation, and the Path Ahead.” The Brookings Institution, March 2017.

[6] “Preventing and Responding to Violent Extremism in Africa: A Development Approach.” 4-5.

[7]Enhancing Stability and Development in Africa: the Role of the African Development Bank.” Accessed March 20, 2017.

[8] “Preventing and Responding to Violent Extremism in Africa: A Development Approach.” 4-5.

[9] Miller, Ryan. “The Rise of Terrorist Groups in Sub-Saharan Africa.” Borgen Magazine, May 19, 2014. Accessed March 20, 2017.

[10] Uwumana, Chantal. “Sub-Saharan Africa: Achieving ‘the Africa we Want’ Starts with the Rule of Law.” Transparency International. January 27, 2016. Accessed March 20, 2017.

[11] Shivute, Peter. “The rule of law in Sub-Saharan Africa–An overview.” N Horn & A Bosl (eds) (2009). Accessed March 20, 2017.

[12] Odierno, “Securing Global Cities”

[13] Id.