Almost 500 former– or in occasional cases current – voluntary recruits to extremist organizations such as Al Shabaab, Boko Haram or Ansar Dine were interviewed for the survey. Most cited lack of employment, healthcare, education, security and housing as reasons for joining the groups, with very few mentioning religious ideology.
Poverty is a blight, and one that disproportionately affects sub-Saharan Africa. It means that if you want to address extremism, you must fight inequality too. The U.N. Development Programme, "Journey to Extremism in Africa: drivers, incentives and the tipping point for recruitment" presents compelling evidence that violent extremism can never be beaten if feelings of deprivation and marginalization, especially among the young, are not addressed.
In Kenya as in many other countries, the regions acknowledged to be flashpoints for radicalisation and violent extremism are synonymous with extreme poverty, high illiteracy levels and under-investment in basic services. The majority of those living in these regions have for years believed themselves to be excluded from the national development agenda.
The challenge of creating economic opportunities for Africa’s youth is monumental. Consider this. Every 24 hours, nearly 33,000 youth across Africa join the search for employment. About 60 percent will be joining the army of the unemployed, adding to existing social and economic pressures. If Africa is to curtail the spread of violent extremism and achieve sustainable development, there must be determined focus on the health, education and employment of disadvantaged youth.
Only by tackling entrenched inequalities both economic and gender-based can Africa achieve sustainable prosperity, and end the scourge of poverty. The World Socialist Movement never tires is repeating its call for the end of capitalism and the building of socialism.