The countries of the central Sahel and the Lake Chad basin, the most dangerous
Africa has already become the main world jihadist scene, with seven of the ten countries with the highest terrorist risk located on this continent, according to the index prepared by the risk analysis and forecasting firm Verisk Maplecroft.
The Terrorism Intensity Index, which assesses risk on a quarterly basis in 198 countries around the world, is led by Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Mali, Somalia and Syria, which score 0 out of 10 points. They are closely followed by Cameroon, Mozambique, Niger, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and Iraq completes the ‘top 10’. Nigeria, the most populous country on the continent and its main economy, appears in eleventh position.
In addition to these seven countries in the top ten, nine others have seen an increase in the frequency and severity of attacks, “suggesting that the scope and effectiveness of terrorist groups in Africa is increasing”, highlights Alexandre Raymakers, analyst for the firm’s continent.
Thus, in the last quarter there has been a 13 percent increase in terrorist incidents on the continent compared to the previous one. In addition, four of the five countries that have worsened their situation the most in the last year are on the continent, with Burundi as the one that falls the most, followed by the Ivory Coast and Tanzania. The situation has also deteriorated in Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique and Senegal, while there has been an improvement in Rwanda and the Central African Republic.
SAHEL AND LAKE CHAD
The deterioration of the situation is explained by the fact that the continent is home to two of the main centers of jihadist activity today: the central Sahel, which includes Mali, Burkina Faso and western Niger, and Lake Chad, which mainly affects to Nigeria and Cameroon, and to a lesser extent eastern Niger and Chad.
In the case of the Sahel, the affiliates of Al Qaeda and the Islamic State operate in the area – the Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) – which in addition to perpetrating attacks by In recent months they have also engaged in intense fighting with each other.
With regard to Lake Chad, here the jihadist activity has been going on for more than a decade, led by Boko Haram, joined in 2016 by its spin-off, the Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA). In addition, experts have been warning that the actions are increasingly spreading from the east to the west of Nigeria, which raises fears that both scenarios will end up linked via Niger.
Thus, the Verisk Maplecroft analyst warns that “the deterioration of the situation in West Africa represents a series of risks for extractive operators in the region, not only for the physical security of their assets, but also for their routes of staff and distribution “.
Although for now terrorist groups “have held back from directly attacking large gold and uranium mines”, mining companies operating in the Sahel are the most exposed today. In this regard, he warns that companies that depend on logistics routes from ports in the region will likely face more ambushes and controls to collect money in Burkina Faso and Niger.
RISK OF SPREAD TO COASTAL COUNTRIES
In addition, the security firm also anticipates that groups operating in the Sahel will try to expand their operations towards coastal countries, which “will probably take the form of increasing attacks against government and military positions on the borders” between these countries.
On the other hand, Raymakers emphasizes that the commitment of African governments to an anti-terrorist action based above all on the heavy-handed military response “carries significant risks, since large-scale military operations can often result in substantial human rights violations against the civilian population “.
As extractive companies generally rely on governments to ensure the safety of their assets, this factor can pose “a reputational risk for firms closely associated with host governments.” The expert gives as an example the case of Mozambique, where natural gas companies are under threat from the incipient Islamic State in Central Africa (ISCA) and depend on Mozambican forces to protect their interests.
Regarding the outlook for 2021, Verisk Maplecroft considers it unlikely that groups operating in sub-Saharan Africa will reduce their actions in a context of strong socio-economic impact of the pandemic that has emptied the coffers of the states.