Africa: Too Intense
Africa has seen a bevy of political events in recent months. After the deterioration of the security situation in the Sahel, as well as the forced departures of historical leaders from Algeria and Sudan via the streets, where will the political risks manifest in the second half of the year? Using its quantitative political risk model, Coface intends to identify – beyond the pace dictated by current events – recent political risk trends and thus the countries to be monitored.
Our indices of political violence also conﬁrm that violent events (conﬂicts and terrorist acts), although more localised, have become relatively common again, particularly in the Sahel, compared to the beginning of the 21st century: compared to 2008, there were almost twice as many conﬂicts across the continent in 2018.
continues in Africa
As Coface reported in 2017, the world is experiencing an upsurge in conﬂicts that has not abated in recent years: despite a decline in 2018 after the historical record set in 2017, the number of conﬂicts has increased by 70% since 2008, with 2.2 times more victims. Over the past ﬁve years, the number of casualties has exceeded the 70,000 mark each year for the third time in 30 years (after the 1990-1991 periods, at the height of the Gulf War, and 1999-2000, marked by the fratricidal war between Ethiopia and Eritrea). At the same time, terrorism is spreading as another form of political violence.
Often described as a continent prone to conﬂict and terrorism, data from the indices compiled by Coface conﬁrms this. In the 2019 version of the Conﬂict Risk Index, 25 of the 45 African countries evaluated9 have a non-zero score. In total, only 52 countries in the world are in this situation. African countries therefore contribute to the overall upward trend in global conﬂicts. The increase in conﬂicts on the continent is driven in particular by those that do not involve a state. At both global and continental levels, this type of conﬂict has tripled since the beginning of the decade, but is nevertheless increasing more rapidly in Africa. The region is therefore, by far, the region with the largest number of non-state conﬂicts. The proliferation of clashes between armed militias in Libya, the CAR and the DRC contributes to this trend, as do clashes between Oromo and Somali in Ethiopia, and between Berom farmers, Christians, and Fulani herders, Muslims, in the Plateau State of Nigeria.
While the increase in the number of non-state conﬂicts is remarkable, it should not overshadow those involving a state, which have also surged over the past ﬁve years, mainly due to the ﬁght against armed Islamist groups, including those affiliated to the Islamic State (IS). This is particularly the case in the Sahel and around Lake Chad, justifying the place of Nigeria, Mali, Chad and Niger as the countries with the highest conﬂict scores. In 2018, Egypt and Libya were also engaged in conﬂicts against IS. In addition, among the highest scores on the continent is also Cameroon, where clashes in the English-speaking regions between the army and the defense forces of the self-proclaimed Republic of Ambazonia intensified during an election year that saw President Paul Biya win a seventh term. In Sudan, the struggle between government forces and resistance movements in the conflict areas united within the Sudan Revolutionary Front continued in the country, and notably testifies to the still precarious security situation in Darfur.
In addition, with the increase in the number of organized non-governmental armed groups targeting civilian populations, the increase in the number of conﬂicts is concomitant with the increase in terrorist acts in Africa. It is therefore unsurprising that among the 25 countries with a conflict score above the minimum threshold of 0%, 24 also have a non-zero terrorism score (the exception being Eritrea).
In Africa, terrorist activity by Islamist groups dominates, particularly in conflict areas: in the Sahel10, as well as in Libya and Egypt. Nearly 60% of the victims of terrorism in Africa are concentrated in these eight countries. Kenya and Mozambique, with scores of 62% and 44% respectively, also rank in the ﬁrst quartile of the riskiest countries in our index, mainly due to the activity of Islamist terrorist groups (al-Shabaab in Kenya and Ansar al-Sunna in Mozambique). Finally, in addition to Cameroon, which is particularly affected by Boko Haram’s incursions into the Far North, the presence of CAR and DRC among the ten riskiest countries in our index provides additional examples of how conﬂict and terrorism regularly go hand in hand on the continent.
Although instructive, the risk indices of conﬂict and terrorism, based on past observation, off er only a vision of extreme episodes of violence. However, political risk is also about understanding the moments of disruption that lead to a profound change in a country’s political structure.