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Understanding and responding to extremist threats in Southern Africa

Our first policy brief addresses the topic of the growing threat of terrorism in Southern Africa.

Since 2006, there has been a tremendous growth in the number of violent extremist attacks across the African continent. The growth of violent extremism – and the devastating impact of groups espousing violent ideologies – is not only setting in motion a dramatic reversal of the development and democratic gains already made, but also threatening to stunt prospects of political and economic development for decades to come.

The most vulnerable and at-risk regions are in West Africa, the Sahel, and East Africa. The continued presence and influence of violent extremist groups has spread outside

of its epicenters, most notably from Somalia. In the last decade, Al-Shabaab and its offshoots have made successful in-roads into Kenya and Tanzania. In 2015, the UNDP labelled Tanzania an at-risk country for violent extremism. In the last few years, southern Tanzania has witnessed a number of attempted and successful attacks from violent extremist groups, and a growing presence of training and indoctrination camps along the border with Mozambique. This puts Mozambique in a precarious situation, where the North of the country is at particular risk.


  1. In Africa, violent extremism has spread outside of its epicentres to previously low risk countries.

  2. Geographical, socio-political, and economic factors make Mozambique a potentially attractive operating environment and target for violent extremism and a possible corridor for international jihadists going to South Africa and beyond.

  3. Attacks in Mozambique pose a threat to South Africa given the country’s political and economic vulnerabilities, lack of social cohesion, history with terrorism and recent events involving ISIS.

  4. As more pressing developmental concerns are prioritised, Southern African countries have been slow to develop robust responses to terrorist threats.

Holistic responses are needed now, at this critical juncture, in order to prevent violent extremism as opposed to countering it.

Download the policy brief here.


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