top of page

Fighting Terrorism in Africa When Existing Terrorism Levels Matter

By Simplice Asongu, African Governance and Development Institute; Vanessa S. Tchamyou, African Governance and Development Institute; Ndemaze Asongu, University of South Africa - Department of Communication Science and Nina Tchamyou African Governance and Development Institute.


This study examines policy tools in the fight against terrorism when existing levels of terrorism matter in 53 African countries for the period 1998-2012. The empirical evidence is based on contemporary, non-contemporary and Instrumental Variable Quantile regressions (QR) which enable the investigation throughout the conditional distributions of domestic, transnational and total terrorism dynamics. The following findings are established. First, counterterrorism policy instruments of inclusive human development and military expenditure further fuel terrorim. Second, political stability negatively affects terrorism with a negative threshold effect. Political stability estimates are consistently significant with increasing negative magnitudes throughout the conditional distributions of domestic and total terrorism. Policy implications are discussed.

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

1. Introduction

The study aims to answer the following research question: how do inclusive development, military expenditure and political stability affect terrorism when existing levels of terrorism are taken into account in Africa? Africa has been developing at a fast pace with increase in human development, economic might and military capability. We would expect a proportional decrease in political violence. However, that is not the case. Investigating policy tools in the fight against terrorism by accounting for existing levels of terrorism is motivated by at least six contemporary factors, notably: increasing terrorism in Africa; the continent’s poverty tragedy; debates surrounding the effect human development and poverty on terrorism; controversies on the role of political governance on terrorism; debates on the effect of military expenditure on terrorism and shortcomings in the literature. The highlighted factors are engaged in chronological order.

First, terrorism is increasing in Africa because of endemic corruption, failure of states; plundering of resources; ethnic and tribal tensions and; religious fundamentalism (Fazel, 2013; Alfa-Wali et al., 2015; Asongu et al., 2018, 2019). Despite the increasing concern about terrorism on the continent, compared to the Middle East, Africa is not receiving the policy and scholarly attention it deserves (Clavarino, 2014). Notable terrorism organisations that have been disrupting livelihoods include: Al-Shabab in Somalia; Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and the Boko Haram in Nigeria. According to the recently published Global Terrorism Index (GTI, 2014), compared to the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) which accounted for 6, 073 deaths, the Boko Haram of Nigeria was the deadliest movement with 6,644 casualties. This study employs four main terrorism variables to assess the rising trends, namely: domestic, transnational, unclear and total terrorism dynamics.

Second, a World Bank report in April 2015 has revealed that extreme poverty has been decreasing in all regions of the world with the exception of Africa, where 45% of states in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) are considerably off-track for reaching the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) extreme poverty target (Tchamyou, 2019, 2020; Tchamyou et al., 2019; Asongu & Odhiambo, 2019a, 2019b). Conversely, since the mid 1990s, the continent has been enjoying resurgence in economic growth (Fosu, 2015a, p. 44). The stark contrast between high growth and substantial off-track from the MDG poverty target does not augur well with overly optimistic perspectives about the ‘Africa rising’ narrative (Leautier, 2012; Pinkivskiy & Sala-i-Martin, 2014). There is a new stream of literature in response to the poverty tragedy of the continent. Some notable works include: (i) an assessment of whether the recent growth resurgence has been a myth or a reality on the one hand and investigating the role of institutions in the underlying growth resurgence, on the other (Fosu, 2015b, 2015c). (ii) A paradigm shift to ‘soft economics’ (or human development) in order to understand Africa’s poverty tragedy (Kuada, 2015; Asongu & Odhiambo, 2019c). The inequality adjusted human development index is used as a policy independent variable in this study.

Third, empirical literature on the impact of human development and poverty on terrorism is mixed at best. Some conflicting conclusions include: no relationship between GDP per capita and terrorism (Krueger & Maleckova, 2003); a negative nexus between GDP per capita and terrorism (Li, 2005); no causality from the human development index to terrorism (Piazza, 2006); the risk of terrorism not more likely in poor countries (Abadie, 2006); political repression (instead of GDP per capita) encouraging transnational terrorism (Krueger & Laitin, 2008); a positive nexus between GDP per capita and terrorism when victims’ perspectives are taken into account (Gassenbner & Luechinger, 2011); minority economic discrimination positively affecting domestic terrorism (Piazza, 2011) and a positive nexus between transnational terrorism and GDP per capita (Blomberg et al., 2014). With the exceptions of Piazza (2011) and Li and Schaub (2004), very little empirical support for the positive relationship between terrorism and poverty has been established.

Fourth, the literature is also very conflicting about the relationship between governance and terrorism (Lee, 2013). On the one hand, there is a strand which argues that good institutions reduce negative sentiments towards a country and hence, mitigate the likelihood of terrorists organisations recruiting more activists (Windsor, 2003; Li, 2005). On the other hand, another strand of the literature contends that good governance is not a useful tool in mitigating terrorism because the interest of terrorists’ entities may not be properly represented by democratic political institutions (Gause, 2005). According to the narrative, states with strong political institutions are characterised by exclusive development (Bass, 2014). To put this point into perspective, Western-born and -educated youth are leaving Europe to join the ranks of ISIL partly because they feel socio-economically excluded in countries they consider theirs (Foster, 2014). Terrorism is entertained in states with strong political governance because of a plethora of direct and indirect factors that are linked to a favourable environment and grievances, namely: access and freedom to media; freedom of speech in the expressions of disagreement and dissatisfaction and; civil liberties (Ross, 1993). A political governance indicator is used by this study to assess the governance-terrorism nexus in Africa.

Suggested Citation:

Asongu, Simplice and S. Tchamyou, Vanessa and Asongu, Ndemaze and Tchamyou, Nina, Fighting Terrorism in Africa When Existing Terrorism Levels Matter (January 26, 2019). Forthcoming: Behavioral Sciences of Terrorism and Political Aggression. DOI: 10.1080/19434472.2019.1698634. Available at SSRN: or


bottom of page