Issued by CEMO Center - Paris
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Analysis: Poverty, Religion, and the Real Reasons African Youth Join Terrorist Groups

Sunday 26/February/2023 - 04:42 PM
The Reference
Wr.: Mahmod Mohammadi, Tr.: Ahmed Seif EL-Din

Terrorism is a complex issue that cannot be reduced to a single cause. While religious beliefs are often cited as the primary reason for young people joining extremist organizations, the situation in Africa is quite different. Other factors that drive youth to join and be attracted to terrorist groups include economic hardship, unemployment, and disparities between social classes.

According to Aki Steiner, the Director of the United Nations Development Programme, seizing opportunities is the main driver behind joining these organizations. In many countries, economic conditions are extremely difficult, and terrorist groups offer financial incentives from the proceeds of their crimes. In his book "Cartel States: A Theory of International Politics," Dr. Alexander Lee, Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Rochester, discusses separate issues: what brings terrorist activity to a country, how that happens in countries that live in peace compared to those experiencing rebellion or civil war, and what attracts people to recruitment.

Dr. Barak Mendelsohn, Professor of Political Science at Haverford College in the United States, argues in his book "The Al-Qaeda Franchise: The Expansion of Al-Qaeda and Its Consequences" that defining terrorism is very difficult and there is no agreement on what constitutes it. This creates an immediate problem in creating empirical facts that in turn make policy analysis and conclusions extremely difficult and variable.

Poverty and unemployment are particularly acute problems in sub-Saharan Africa, with over 40 percent of the population living on less than $1.25 per day. While these issues may not be the primary drivers of terrorism, they create a fertile ground for extremist organizations to gain support and recruit young people who are struggling to survive.

In addition to poverty and unemployment, other factors that drive youth to join terrorist groups in Africa include political marginalization, social exclusion, and a lack of access to education and other opportunities. These issues are compounded by religious and ethnic tensions that have often been stoked by political leaders and other elites seeking to maintain their power and influence.

It is essential to address the root causes of terrorism in Africa if we are to make any progress in reducing its spread. This means addressing economic inequality, creating job opportunities for young people, and promoting greater political and social inclusion. It also means combating religious and ethnic intolerance and working to promote understanding and dialogue between different groups.

In conclusion, while religious beliefs may be one factor driving youth to join terrorist groups in other parts of the world, the situation in Africa is more complex. Poverty, unemployment, political marginalization, and social exclusion all play a role in creating an environment in which extremist organizations can gain a foothold. Addressing these root causes is critical if we hope to build a more peaceful and stable future for the continent.