West and Horn of Africa: Resources, Militancy & Organised Crime

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Africa’s GDP is the most rapidly growing of any continent but corruption, crime, and militancy are rife. Much of this centres on the continents wealth of natural resources, including petroleum etc. Foreign investment in Africa has grown exponentially over the last decade and will continue to rise. Consequently, foreign & African governments and criminal/militant groups’ interests and sphere of influences will clash with increasing intensity over the coming years. This will have direct implications on energy, regional and global security agendas. Furthermore, areas such as West and Horn of Africa regions are strategically located, which enhances their role in the international trade system through shipping routes and transnational linkages etc. The creation of AFRICOM reflects the rising global importance of the region, with the exportation of oil only expected to drastically increase from the continent by 2025. Yet with the region still lacking institutions of effective governance and reliable security structures, the levels of violent insurgency have jeopardised economic development in countries such as Somalia, Ethiopia, Mali and Nigeria etc. Different militant groups finance their operations through employment of traditional criminal enterprises, such as smuggling and drug sales. Resources are also exploited for revenue by both criminal organisation and militant groups. Militant organisations such as Al-Shabab and other Jihadists and nationalist movement operating primarily in Somalia & Sahel – have exploited the security vacuum that exists in the regions.  In addition, issues such as piracy continue to effect maritime security whilst increasing costs for counter-piracy measures. The implications of above is severe on all three fronts i.e. Energy security, regional security and global security. To address these problems and develop solutions, we must now confront all three facets holistically, with due appreciation of their interrelated attributes.

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  • Mapping the interplay between resources, militant groups and the dynamics of organised crime in West/horn of Africa.
  • Conflict forecasting and risk analysis of the current and future dynamics of militancy, resources, organised crimes and their repercussions on energy security, regional and global security.
  • Situation analyses on above issues, regional positioning and global powers interests etc.
  • Alternative policy analyses that may serve in policy making on regional and global governance levels
  • Creating a useful guide and knowledge base for stakeholders and public for future oil, gas and aid endeavours in West/Horn of Africa.


ANALYSIS | The Darfur Referendum & Sudan’s Public Relations Problem

June 2016

Bhari one year analysis


May 2016

darfur cover


REPORT | Round Table on Sahel and Libya


IISA’s West and Horn of Africa Programme held a specialist round-table event on the 25th February 2016 to analyse the security situation in Libya and the Sahel.

Sahel roundtable report


SPECIAL REPORT | Hotel attacks in Mali: Dynamics, Aftermath & Impact

DEC 2015

A special report on how internal, regional, and socio-political factors may have contributed to the emergence of neo-Jihadism in Mali, in light of the attacks on the Radisson Blu in Bamako.



DEC 2015 | BLOG

Horn of Africa: Reappraising the Challenges to Regional Security

A series of emerging challenges are undermining regional security in North-East Africa, destabilising an extraordinarily complex situation still further. Operating inter-dependently across social, political and economic spheres, the collective threat posed by organised crime, deficient counter-insurgency strategies and intra-Jihadist competition require a holistic reappraisal of multilateral intervention. Unless contemporary peace building approaches are substantively revised to appreciate these new security dimensions, any policy prescriptions will remain compromised and ineffective.



ANALYSIS | Water Politics: Looming conflict or improved diplomacy?

As a limited natural resource, water has the potential to create tensions within and between countries. In the last 10 years, countries have become active in realising the economic benefits of water, which has in many cases created disputes among riparian states.  A combination of different factors including climate change and overuse of water, has led to speculations that water is the oil of the 21st century, hinting that wars over the resource should not be dismissed.

Water politics

ANALYSIS | Conservatism in Mali: The state of Islam and Jihad

Although legally a secular state, Mali is at least 90% Muslim. Religious leaders are respected and have historically played a role in influencing political behavior. For better or worse, the use of religion in politics has become part of the ‘rules of the game’. Mali has historically been a country with a moderate, Sunni Islam. However, even before 2012, there has been concern over the growth in popularity of conservative, Salafist, or Wahhabist sects of Islam in Mali. In this article, I will question the role of religious conservatism in Malian politics, and whether or not conservative political Islam in Mali is particularly threatening in and of itself. I propose that although the involvement of Islamic leaders and groups may prevent the government from being entirely secular, that aside from jihadists in the North, the most popular Islamic leaders and groups do not advocate violence.

Conservatism in Mali updated

ANALYSIS | The changing status of women in West Africa

This report examines the declining status of Women in West Africa, with a particular focus on Mali, and how tradition and the ancient slave route across the Sahara are exacerbating the dehumanization of women. Concerted inter-national efforts must be made to ensure such practices are eradicated and young girls given equal opportunities in life.

the changing status of women in west africa

ANALYSIS | Resource, wars and government failures

Recently regions in West and Horn of Africa have experienced a significant rise in both the number of militant groups and their followings. Insurgents in these areas are increasing becoming more tactical in their approaches to oppose governments and enforce their beliefs. Natural resources have played a crucial role in fueling this instability, as both governments and the opposition, have used this wealth to further their cause.

Resources, wars and govt failure

VIDEO | Guinea Bissau and Boko Haram

West-horn of Africa youtube June

A discussion presented by researchers Louise Matthews and Antanina Ricceri on Africa’s first ‘narco state’ Guinea Bissau and on the power of perception in relation to recent Boko Haram activities.

ANALYSIS | Guinea Bissau: Africa’s first ‘Narco’ state

Guinea Bissau has become Africa’s first “Narco State”, a title that threatens to further the countries’ slide into insecurity and deepen poverty and inequality. A concerted regional effort is needed to empower weak security and governance structures in order to effectively combat the growing drug trade.

Guinea Bissau report

ANALYSIS | Boko Haram, the West and the power of perception

The recent Boko Haram kidnapping has increased the group’s publicity and internationalized the conflict. Although it has become clear that Nigeria is unable or unwilling to handle the militancy on its own, there are issues that arise from internationalizing the conflict. These include the problematic narrative of the conflict in the West and shifting responsibility away from the Nigerian government. Also significant is the classification of Boko Haram as an international problem, naming the group a foreign terrorist organization, and sanctioning them as a part of al-Qaeda.

Boko haram, the power of perception