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.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs