Africa’s dynamic security environment is characterised by great diversity from conventional challenges such as insurgencies, resource and identity conflicts, and post-conflict stabilisation to growing threats from piracy, narcotics trafficking, violent extremism, and organised crime taking root in Africa’s urban slums, among others.
Role of African Union
To ensure Africa’s security, the Africa Union (AU) since its inception established systems such as the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) to play a more pro-active role in ensuring the security of Africa.
Despite this and other interventions, Africa continues to face several security challenges, which have retarded its growth.
Africa will remain turbulent because it is poor and young, but also because it is growing and dynamic.
Developments come with political, economic and social disruptions and when not managed properly, can trigger all forms of crises with the potential to cause instability.
It is therefore important to discuss the socio-economic and political disruptions that are fundamental to Africa’s security profile and instability.
Despite being different in culture and political orientation, governments in Africa are faced with the same problems, especially regarding the international system – globalisation; bad governance; corruption and profligacy just to mention a few.
The international system-globalisation
Professor Ransford Gyampo during a lecture on Globalisation at the Ghana Armed Forces Command and Staff College in 2018 defined globalisation as “a multidimensional and multifaceted process that involves different interdependent processes that seems to transcend the traditional way of understanding international affairs.” It is in this regards that the consequences of actions and inactions of one nation affects other nations.
This explains why nations are susceptible to both positive and negative impacts of happenings around the globe.
The forces of globalisation include; international production, marketing and distribution of goods and services. Even though this may sound positive, its negative effects are the threats to Africa’s security.
The international businesses out-compete the local businesses leaving indigenes unemployed, as local content policy means nothing to transnational corporations who consider their nationals for top positions in the organisations.
The unemployed youth then become vulnerable to all forms of crime in the quest for survival hence, the issue of insecurity in Africa. Technological revolution is another means through, which unemployed youth are recruited to join hostile groups like Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab and the likes.
Globalisation seems to have taken control from nation-states and therefore requires the need to assert its authority in ensuring that citizens act within the confines of domestic laws.
Government has the responsibility to ensure good governance at all times.
Perhaps the most important driver of violence and conflict in Africa today is weak and unconsolidated governance.
Bad governance and corruption do not just undermine development, but also drive violence.
Yet the moral and financial investment in fighting downstream consequences of corruption including; terror, drug trafficking and organised crime is much greater than the investment in stopping graft. Good governance therefore requires political-will to do things right to ensure peace.
It is posited that Africa’s corruption is a manifestation of its leadership and institutional failure of post-independence. It should be mentioned that this assertion is not an exoneration of the level of corruption that existed during the colonial administrations due to the exploitations and ex-propriations of the continent’s resources, which we term as international abuse of official power.
However, for the purpose of this article, the definition of corruption refers to internal corruption, which Mr A.K. Jain in Corruption Review, Journal of Economic Review (2001) defined as “an act in which the power of public office is used for personal gain in a manner that contravenes the rules of the game.”
Most often, such gains are used extravagantly to the displeasure of the populace. Corruption does not only destroy the society, but also kills innocent people who without any fault of theirs suffer the consequence of greedy leaders.
In retaliation, victims seek justice through crimes by perpetrating acts of violence against such individuals. These political upheavals lead to economic cataclysm.
Political stability to some extent in Africa has helped the continent a lot in almost all sectors of its economy. However, despite the significant improvement in agriculture and other sectors of the economy, most African countries today continue to face so many developmental or economic challenges.
Examples of the challenges include; weak state syndrome and their inability to create a viable society; unsustainable debt profile; mono-culturalism/economic non-diversification and unfair international political economy.
Several reasons have been pointed at, as being responsible for the low rate of economic development and growth in African countries, including; colonisation, neo-liberalisation, dependency, political instability and foreign interests among others.
Some economists have considered structural deficiencies and institutional weaknesses as mainly responsible for low levels of economic development in African countries.
Africa’s total trade has grown rapidly in value since around 2002 and according to The African Export Import Bank, intra-African trade was expected to be worth some $180 billion in 2018. (African Export-Import Bank, 2018).
However, this figure is still only 19 per cent of the continent’s $930bn total trade; and they attributed this to low industrialisation, restricted movement of labour, poor infrastructure and high dependence on the export of unprocessed commodities in many African countries.
It is therefore imperative for African leaders to increase efforts in exporting Africa’s resources in export forms than in their raw states. When African states begin to do more exports of manufactured goods than importation as the status quo is now, then the African continent can begin to experience stability and boost in social developments.
When political and economic fundamentals of states are balanced, the societies therein enjoy acceptable basic amenities like access to education, health, housing and food. Poverty then becomes non-existent and basic human needs are met.
However, Africa having been bedeviled with political and economic challenges makes above-mentioned social amenities absent. The struggle therefore by the growing Africa’s population over the little that is available is overwhelming.
This has resulted into class relations and tribal/ethnic identity-based sharing of the national cake amongst a few fortunate ones.
The vast majority of the populace now wallows in abject poverty and destitution.
In this sense, the active age that feels marginalised in the society resort to acts of violence for survival. Such youths are easily influenced negatively to perpetrate crimes.
Child soldiers during the civil wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone cannot be over emphasised.
It is therefore necessary for African political leaders to provide basic social amenities for their citizens
Africa’s security profile
The political, economic and social challenges engender Africa’s security profile. The security profile in this context means security requiring measures, management and containment to prevent their exacerbations.
These issues that constitute Africa’s security profile which are as a result of the challenges discussed above include; combating organised crimes; conflict prevention and management.
Others are regional and international security cooperation; democratisation; regional governance institutions and natural resources and conflict.
Combating organised crimes. This paper posits that bad governance and corruption undermine development and drive violence through organised crimes.
However, the financial investment in fighting downstream consequences of corruption including; terror, drug trafficking and organised crime could hitherto be used to improve lives.
Mr E.W. Kruisbergen’s in his 2017 thesis titled: ”Combating Organised Crime” presents empirical evidence on two counter strategies to organised crime in the Netherlands: the criminal justice approach and the financial approach (‘follow the money’).
For the criminal justice approach, it focused on a specific method of criminal investigation: undercover policing. For the financial approach, it looked into what organised crime offenders do with their money and the efforts of law enforcement agencies to confiscate criminal earnings.
Either way or in any form whatsoever in combating organised crime, it requires commitment and funds to be channeled into making lives suitable for citizens.
Conflict prevention and mitigation
Conflict mitigation and conflict prevention have different sides of the same coin, with both concepts intertwined. Preventative measures are designed to resolve, contain and manage, so conflicts do not crystallise.
Thus, conflict mitigation is required to allow the initiation of preventative measures and can be costly in loss of human lives if not well managed.
Africa in the past relied entirely on international organisations like the United Nations (UN) to intervene in conflict situations until their inability to prevent the genocide in Rwanda.
Though this was part of reasons for the existence of African Union (AU) and other regional bodies, Africa’s dilemma still remains the prevention and management of conflict on the continent.
Africa’s security profile can therefore not be listed without the consideration of the conflict prevention and management.
It is thus, necessary for African leaders to continue with the effort to strengthen the organisation to ensure continuous peace and tranquility on the entire African continent.
Regional organisation and international security cooperation. After years of talking about it, African regional organisations are beginning to provide solutions to African problems.
These institutions must further improve their ability to influence national politics, monitor internal behaviours of member states and prevent human right violations.
Over time, robust regional and national conflict resolution structures and mechanisms were developed, but still struggle to raise funds and mobilise sufficient political support to become operational.
The needs are given space and support by non-African actors/International security cooperation, accustomed to intervening in African affairs.
There is a need to go beyond existing mechanisms to create regional and sub-regional forces equipped to deal with security issues, including; the spread of transnational organised crime, terrorism and election-related violence.
However, this must be done to avoid adding more problems with increasing militarisation that only topple democratic processes of African states.
Democratisation is key to ensuring stability in Africa. The (growing) imbalance between levels of human development and economic growth and political and social inclusion are threats to stability.
In settings, where democracy is not entrenched, there is lack of transparency and trust in the process, or where the government is factional in benefiting one ethnic group above others, election-related violence occurs.
The role of social media as an “amplifier” is still not contended with by regional leaders.
Leaders are sometimes unwilling to step down when ousted with votes and use various methods, both legal and otherwise, to prolong their stay in power such as in Burundi and political situations observed in the DR Congo.
The increasing connectedness of the population should also be viewed as an opportunity to address the deficit, including; better civil education programmes and election monitoring and the quality of civic processes. These only become possible with a good governance systems and structures to enact policies that would ensure effective and efficient implementations of the programmes.
Regional governance institutions
Good governance requires political-will, and business to be an activist partner in Africa’s development. Africa is progressing in this regard. Indeed, the African Union (AU) recognises that national and regional governance institutions need to be strengthened.
The African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) is seeing somewhat of a revitalisation, and the AU’s African Governance Architecture (AGA) is part of mainstream discussions on the need for more integrated responses to Africa’s security and development challenges.
But the task of building and consolidating institutions requires long-term persistence.
There is a growing need to tackle corruption, improve transparency and secure the democratic space.
State presence needs to be strengthened in “grey zones” or ungoverned spaces, where problematic non-state actors such as extremist groups, terrorist organisations and criminals have flourished in the absence of government control and even established their own administrations.
Grey zones in West Africa and the Sahel, in particular, are becoming global hubs for criminal activity, including; illicit fishing, piracy, and trafficking of drugs, arms and people.
Countering extremism using technology as game changer
Technological changes are raising the security stakes and enabling self-organisation of individuals for both negative (terrorism/extremism) and positive (social change/transparency).
The potential for technology to do good in Africa is however staggering as was demonstrated in areas from improving education quality and quantity, to mobile money reaching the unbanked, data being used to improve public health, and connectivity improving transparency.
However, protecting millions of newly connected Africans from cyber security threats is a major concern, as is the usefulness of the internet as a recruitment tool for extremist groups operating in the region.
Natural resources and conflict
Africa is blessed with abundant natural resources and land, but they have been exploited irresponsibly. This has damaged the environment, widened wealth inequality and fueled resentment and conflict.
Increasingly, serious problems with water distribution and population growth put greater pressure on the need to modernise subsistence agriculture, while climate change effects aggravate the problems: drought, floods or poor harvests may create new refugee populations and increase strains over shared resources.
Will Africa manage its water, mineral, and agricultural resources sustainably, so as to avoid the resources curse or future resource conflicts? Will Africa get ahead of climate change impacts, so as to reduce their negative impacts on security?
These questions and many remain the dilemma in considering Africa’s security profile aimed at preventing reemergence of violence.
By Major Martin Dziedzorm Dey