Many African countries lack the resources to effectively fight global terrorism, according to security experts who gathered in Cape Town for the World Economic Forum on Africa. Terry Fitzpatrick is there and filed this report for VOA.
Africa faces a dual terrorist threat. On the one hand, vacation resorts, Western embassies and international conferences can be targets for terrorist attacks. Also, domestic insurgents inside African countries often look beyond their borders for help from terrorist networks.
One focus for business and government leaders gathered at the World Economic Forum on Africa is how to combat this dual threat. South Africa's Intelligence Minister Ronald Kasrils told the delegates that Africa is no longer a bystander.
"Terrorism is very serious wherever you live in the world today," he said. "It affects everybody. And I don't think we can claim that any country is immune."
Experts said for many African countries with limited resources the challenge can particularly tough. They said terrorists thrive when governments lack resources to provide reliable security.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Jendayi Frazer agreed resources are important, but added good governance is also critical in combating terrorism.
"I don't think that the fundamental issue is the capacity to counter terrorism," she noted. "I think the fundamental issue is the capacity to govern the institutions of governance, which includes a strong security sector, it includes a strong judiciary, it includes an independent legislature. It includes a strong economy. And so it's building the capacity of African countries generally."
Frazer said the greatest terrorist threat in Africa today exists along an arch running from Muratania in West Africa, along the northern tier of countries such as Mali, Niger, Chad and Somalia, then down Africa's eastern coastline including Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique and South Africa.
Intelligence Minister Kasrils said African governments are getting together to form an early warning center in Ethiopia aimed at sharing information among national intelligence agencies.
But to make the center work, he said, the national intelligence officials will have to abandon the ingrained "need-to-know policy," with the more cooperative "need-to-share" approach.