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Fighting Terrorism in Africa: Complementarity between Inclusive Development, Military Expenditure an

By Simplice Asongu, African Governance and Development Institute; Sara le Roux, Oxford Brookes University - Department of Economics and Pritam Singh, Oxford Brookes University.

Picture by Monica Melton

Abstract This study examines complementarities between inclusive development, military expenditure and political stability in the fight against terrorism in 53 African countries for the period 1998-2012. Hence the policy variables employed in the study are inclusive development, military expenditure and political stability. The empirical evidence is based on Generalised Method of Moments (GMM) with forward orthogonal deviations. The paper reports three main findings. Firstly, military expenditure and inclusive development are substitutes and not complements. Secondly, it is more relevant to use political stability as a complement of inclusive development than to use inclusive development as a complement of political stability. Thirdly, it can be broadly established that military expenditure and political stability are complementary. In the light of the sequencing, complementarity and substitutability, when the three policy variables are viewed within the same framework, it is more feasible to first pursue political stability and then complement it with military expenditure and inclusive development.

Keywords: Terrorism; Inclusive development; Political stability; Military expenditure; Africa

1. Introduction

A number of reasons motivate this study on complementarities between inclusive development, military expenditure and political stability in the fight against terrorism in Africa, namely: growing levels of terrorism in Africa; the tragedy of poverty in the continent; debates revolving around the impact of military expenditure on terrorism; controversies on the relationship between terrorism and political governance; debates surrounding the effect of ‘poverty and human development’ on terrorism and shortcomings in the literature. The motivating factors are discussed in detail below.

Terrorism has been increasing in Africa due to ethnic and tribal tensions, state failures, endemic corruption and religious fundamentalism (Fazel, 2013; Alfa-Wali et al., 2015; Asongu et al., 2017). When compared to the Middle East, the continent is not receiving the scholarly attention it deserves (Clavarino, 2014). Some of the notable examples of terrorist organisations that have been affecting livelihoods on the continent include: al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, al-Shabab in Somalia and the Boko Haram in Nigeria. According to a recent publication by the Global Terrorism Index (GTI, 2015), in 2014 the Boko Haram of Nigeria was the deadliest terrorist movement causing 6,644 deaths compared to the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) which caused 6,073 deaths. Such conflicts have contributed substantially to slowing the path to meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) (Stewart, 2003).

According to a World Bank (2015) report on achievement of MDGs’ extreme poverty reduction targets, extreme poverty has been decreasing in all regions of the world with the exception of Africa where about 45% of the countries in Sub-Saharan Africa are considerably off-track from the MDGs extreme poverty reduction target (Tchamyou, 2019, 2020). This poverty co-exists with more than twenty years of growth resurgence in the continent that commenced in the mid 1990s (see Fosu, 2015a, p. 44) and questions the overly optimistic narrative of ‘Africa rising’ (Leautier, 2012; Pinkivskiy & Sala-i-Martin, 2014). This inquiry interrogates whether inclusive development mitigates terrorism by examining whether non-inclusive development experienced by the sampled countries over the past decade is a fundamental cause of terrorism2 . This position complements a recent stream ofliterature that is questioning World Bank claims about Africa’s growth resurgence by focussing on the non-inclusive character of Africa’s development experience, and arguing, therefore, that a paradigm shift to ‘soft economics’ (or human development) is necessary to understand and confront the continent’s poverty tragedy (Kuada, 2015).

Conflicting views exist on the effect of military spending on terrorism, notably because some consensus has been established in the literature on the counter-effects of military expenditure on terrorism (Feridun & Shahbaz, 2010, p.195). This consensus argues that counterterrorism policies provide more fuel to terrorist attacks, instead of mitigating and preventing them (Sandler, 2005). Moreover, such counterterrorism policies are ineffective, in part, due to the absence of internationally recognised, comprehensive and long-run policies in the battle against terrorism (Omand, 2005). It is argued, for example, that the United States’ policies in the fight against terrorism are not effective because they boost the chances of terrorism reoccurring (Lum et al., 2006). Feridum and Shahbaz (2010) have established a unidirectional causality from terrorism to military expenditure. We believe that the intuition underpinning the negative relationship between military expenditure and terrorism is still open to debate.

Moreover, there are very conflicting positions in the literature on the relationship between terrorism and governance (Lee, 2013). There is a branch of studies which argues that democratic institutions mitigate resentments towards the management of a country and, therefore, reduce the possibility of recruitment by terrorists’ organisations (Windsor, 2003; Li, 2005). A second strand argues that democratic institutions are not useful in reducing terrorism because the interests of terrorist organisations are not properly enshrined in democratic political institutions (Gause, 2005). In addition, nations with solid political institutions may be associated with high levels of non-inclusive development (see Bass, 2014). A contemporary example that illustrates this perspective is the one relating to European-born and educated youths leaving Europe to join ISIL because of social exclusion (Foster, 2014). In essence, terrorism can be harboured in nations with strong democratic institutions because of a multitude of direct and indirect factors that promote grievances: civil liberties, freedom and access to media and freedom of speech in the expressions of dissatisfaction and disagreement (see Ross, 1993).

The empirical literature on the nexus between poverty, human development and terrorism is very conflicting. Some of the varying conclusions include: a negative relationship between terrorism and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita (Li, 2005); no nexus between terrorism and GDP per capita (Krueger & Maleckova, 2003); the absence of causality from human development to terrorism (Piazza, 2006); an increased likelihood of terrorism in poor nations (Abadie, 2006); a positive relationship between terrorism and GDP per capita when the views of victims are considered (Gassenbner & Luechinger, 2011); a positive relationship between GDP per capita and transnational terrorism (Blomberg et al., 2014) and economic discrimination of the minority communities influencing domestic terrorism (Piazza, 2011; Singh 2002). With a few exceptions (Piazza, 2011; Li & Schaub, 2004), there has been very little empirical support for the positive nexus between poverty and terrorism.

In particular, there is a need to focus on Africa which is not receiving the scholarly attention it deserves in spite of increasing terrorism levels on the continent and to contribute to the debate on the conflicting roles of military expenditure, inclusive development and political governance by assessing their complementarities in the fight against terrorism. African-oriented literature in the fight against terrorism has focused essentially on: assessing the role of freedoms and poverty on terrorism (Barros et al., 2008); the role of global warming (Price & Elu, 2016); investigating the influence of competition between military companies on the rate at which conflicts are resolved (Akcinaroglu & Radziszewski, 2013); examining the influence of externalities like geopolitical fluctuations (Straus, 2012) and exploring the mission of multilateral institutions by the African Union (Ewi & Aning, 2006).

This inquiry is particularly relevant for sustainable development in the post-2015 development agenda because terrorism threats may create an uncertain economic outlook owing to increasing ambiguity both from local and foreign actors who have been documented to prefer ambiguity-safe economic strategies (Kelsey & le Roux, 2017, 2018). Terrorism has far-reaching consequences such as infrastructural damages, reduction in savings and economic output, higher insurance premiums, trade losses and increasing investment costs (Singh, 2001, 2007; Efobi et al., 2015).

The paper is structured as follows: Section 2 engages with the theoretical and empirical underpinnings, while Section 3 discusses the data and methodology. The empirical analysis and discussion of results are covered in Section 4, while Section 5 concludes with future research directions.

Suggested Citation:

Asongu, Simplice and le Roux, Sara and Singh, Pritam, Fighting Terrorism in Africa: Complementarity between Inclusive Development, Military Expenditure and Political Stability (January 23, 2020). Forthcoming, Journal of Policy Modeling. Available at SSRN: or


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