Study Urges Support for Fragile States in Sub-Saharan Africa



The global economic recession has hit many African countries hard. A new report says some of the continent’s fragile states are especially vulnerable to the shocks of the global financial crisis and says there may be a link between economic downturns and conflict. The authors call for targeted donor support to prevent a humanitarian crisis.

Much of Africa is on the outskirts of world trade. So, it’s not surprising that last year, many economists thought the continent would not be affected much by the global financial crisis. 

Their views have changed.  

Over the past year-and-a-half, much of Africa has been suffering from the rising cost of imported food and fuel. Following these shocks was the near collapse of the international trading system. 

African countries dependent on exports have seen prices drop or fluctuate for their primary commodities, like oil, copper, diamonds, gold or tobacco. It has been much the same for those that had begun exporting high-earning, specialized crops, like flowers or vegetables to Europe.

Also hit have been countries that have few trade ties to the world but that are still dependent on now-declining remittances from citizens living abroad.  Others depend on declining levels of overseas development aid.   

A summary of the effects of the global crisis on Africa is included in a recent report by the Governance and Social Development Resource Centre, a part of the International Development Department of the University of Birmingham in Britain.  Shiv Bakrania is the lead author of the report which also discusses sub-Saharan African countries thought to be most vulnerable to the effects of the financial crisis and at risk of further instability and conflict.

The assessment uses the Brookings Institution Index of Weak States and an analysis of vulnerable countries by the International Monetary Fund to identify the likely flashpoints most in need of humanitarian and longer-term development assistance. 

"The two hot spots," says Bakrania, "are the Horn of Africa and Central Africa.The Horn was already suffering from a food and fuel crisis and drought….Some problems could spill into relatively stable states like Kenya, which is dealing with its own food emergency. Decreasing income streams could even move some previously stable countries towards fragility."

The study says countries defined as high risk often have weak governments and are vulnerable to the shocks of the economic crisis. Some are recovering from civil war. Among them are Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Central African Republic, Liberia, Ivory Coast, and two states that depend on oil as their main export, Angola and Nigeria.

The DRC could become a center of further instability in the Central African region. The global financial crisis has affected its important drivers of growth, mining and infrastructure projects.  The World Bank predicts that lower commodity prices will lead to reduced export revenues and the end of the country’s current surplus.

Burundi, recovering from years of conflict, is faced with a drop in the price of its main source of foreign exchange, coffee. The report notes that elections are due next year, though not all of the agreements between the warring parties have been implemented, amid growing political tension.

A withdrawal of international support could also affect neighboring countries Liberia and Sierra Leone, which are recovering from the lingering effects of civil war. Those two countries, along with Guinea, make up an area of potential conflict. Scholars also note a link between reduced economic activity and violence, especially when large numbers of young men are unemployed.  Unrest can also ensue as ethnic and religious groups vie for limited resources.

"The impacts of the financial crisis," he says, "could lead to more crime and criminality because those issues do not respect borders and we could see them spread to neighboring countries."

The report offers a number of suggestions, including stepped up aid commitments, greater coordination between donors and national governments,and social budgeting that targets the poorest.

Bakrania calls for improved data collection and monitoring. 

"We found that, for the Horn of Africa and Central Africa regions, there is a real paucity of information on the impact of the financial crisis on fragility and poverty," he says. 

"So one suggestion is that donors need to support further research and monitoring in those regions, especially at a local level and using local expertise where possible, so we can keep a close eye on trends and better forecast where humanitarian aid and development assistance will be needed."

Bakrania also says donors must design policies that emphasize support for women and children in particular.

It’s best, he says, for donors to take a regional approach where possible and work with inter-governmental institutions such as the East African Community and the Economic Community of West African States. He says regional interventions would have a wider effect across national boundaries.

Bakrania urges the G20 countries to honor or even increase their past commitments of aid to Africa rather than bend to domestic pressures to curb overseas development assistance. He welcomed the policies of some countries, like Great Britain, which has committed at least half of all new bilateral country funding to fragile countries. 

Shiv Bakrania is the Manager of the Global Facilitation Network for Security Sector Reform (GFN-SSR) and the report which this article refers to was commissioned through the Governance and Social Development Resource Centre (GSDRC).

The report, The Impact of the Financial Crisis on Conflict and State Fragility in Sub-Saharan Africa, is available as a free download from the GSDRC website

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs