Month: September 2016

West Africa and the Sahel-Sahara region

West Africa faces a range of security threats that have the potential to impact foreign nationals operating in the region over the short- to medium-term. Structural risks, as well as the threat posed by militant and insurgent groups, may impact existing or planned business operations in both urban areas and remote sites, such as mining operations. Poor governance, weak state institutions and widespread poverty characterise many countries in the region. Elevated levels of civil unrest, driven by political instability and widespread poverty, pose a significant risk insofar as popular protests in major urban areas may descend into violent riots, posing a physical, but often incidental, threat to foreign nationals. Long-term investors and travellers need to be especially aware of political risk; the states of West Africa, with the exception of Senegal, have all experienced military coups at some point since their independence. Since 2000, for example, coups or military government takeovers have occurred in Mali, Guinea, Togo, Guinea-Bissau, Chad, Niger, Equatorial Guinea, and Cote d’Ivoire. As the recent failed coup in Burkina Faso in September 2015 demonstrates, military interference shows no sign of abating. In addition, a number of Sahelian states face north-south geopolitical splits, which often exacerbate security conditions. Long-term demographic trends may also undermine the security environment, as increasing numbers of unemployed youth may be forced to join illicit groupings, such as criminal networks or local militias, and may engage in rural banditry; factors that may well aggravate an already uncertain outlook in the decades ahead.

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