Why has Sub-Saharan Africa become the new epicentre for violent extremism?

December 13, 2022

UNDP’s Oslo Governance Centre and the Regional Bureaux for Africa and Arab States hosted a pre-launch conversation ahead of the continental launch of the upcoming UNDP report Journey to Extremism in Africa: Pathways to Recruitment and Disengagement in 2023. The discussion examined the reasons why Sub-Saharan Africa has emerged as the new epicentre of violent extremism and brought together experts in the field, including local practitioners, academics, and policymakers.

The countermeasures to this growing threat in the five years following the UNDP’s initial report on the topic were addressed, with an emphasis on why the African continent has become the world's epicentre of violent extremism. What works in terms of development initiatives to counter violent extremism was also explored. 

The event featured an all-day informative photographic exhibition with excerpts from the report, providing unique insights into the discoveries of the new flagship report.


In 2017, UNDP's flagship report Journey to Extremism in Africa: Drivers, Incentives and the Tipping Point for Recruitment provided more nuance on the phenomena of violent extremism in Africa.

Given the rapidly changing dynamics of this issue, UNDP initiated a second iteration of the Journey to Extremism in Africa research in 2019 with the objective of expanding both the scope and depth of its existing evidence base, with over 2,000 respondents from key hotspots and spillover countries across the continent. It will explore the threat that violent extremism poses to peace, stability, and development in Africa. 


Elin Hellum, Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

The head of the Section for Global Security and Disarmament at the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Elin Hellum, delivered one of the opening remarks at the event. She underlined the importance of good governance as a vital aspect of the preventative measures against violent extremism.

Panel 1: Ilwad Elman, Fatima Akilu, Hauwa Shaffi Nuhu & Morten Bøås

The expert panel featured Ilwad Elman, Chief Operating Officer of the Elman Centre, Fatima Akilu, Executive Director of the Neem Foundation, renowned author and poet Hauwa Shaffi Nuhu, and Morten Bøås, Research Professor at NUPI. All participants shared their insights to the overarching theme of the event by addressing the causes of and the ways out of violent extremism from the perspective of their respective professions.

Among the many issues covered were the reintegration of former extremist group members, government accountability, the socioeconomic explanations for why people are pushed into joining violent extremist groups to begin with, and observations on the best approach to combat and prevent violent extremism - whether from an international perspective or by enabling, empowering, and supporting the local population to manage this on a community-level.

"It is hard to invest in prevention when success is that nothing happens" - Ilwad Elman 


Panel 2: Ilwad Elman, Nirina Kiplagat, Mohammed Al-Qussari

Furthermore, the event incorporated creative components such as music and dance to demonstrate the various ways the same message of resilience in conflictual contexts may be conveyed. We were fortunate to have the artists Akuvi and Amie Mbye open and close our momentous event.