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Measuring the economic impact of violent extremism in Africa

Jun 17, 2020

The ten years between 2007 and 2016 saw terrorism cost the African continent a minimum of US$119 billion. In reality, this figure is much higher once estimates for GDP losses, lost informal economic activity, extra security spending, and refugee/IDP costs are accounted for. In the eighteen focus countries of the UNDP’s project “Preventing and Responding to Violent Extremism in Africa: A Development Approach” (PVE), the ten years since 2016 has seen an enormous increase in the intensity of violent extremist and terrorist activity, with terrorist attacks increasing seven fold since 2007, and fatalities associated with terrorism increasing by a factor of five. This rise in the intensity of terrorist activity has seen the economic impact of terrorism in the 18 focus countries increased by over 1,700% in the ten-year period between 2007 and 2016, from an estimated US$753 million in 2007 to US$14 billion in 2016.  

The publication findings, aimed at policy makers and international and regional development partners active in the domain of inclusive growth and PVE, will inform enhancement of UNDP development initiatives and practices that promote new economic opportunities by linking the role of livelihoods with PVE at community and national levels rather than just individual level.


  • The report estimates that 16 of the 18 focus countries have lost an average of US$97 billion per year in informal economic activity since 2007.
  • African continent spends almost US$84 billion per year on securitization, or the equivalent of immunizing the 117 low and lower-middle income countries for approximately ten years.
  • Violent extremist activity has greatly impacted formal but also informal economy, which tends to be more resilient. The suffered losses in informal economic activity in Africa between 2007 and 2015 reached US$1.68 trillion.
  • Disruptions to markets and informal cross-border trade due security measures and violent extremist activities have had a disproportionate impact on women’s livelihoods and living conditions.

As the world focuses on the fight to curb the pandemic, extremist groups have stepped up operations across African continent and are poised to make strategic gains during the COVID-19 outbreak, outmaneuvering distracted and overstretched domestic and foreign security forces and exploiting communities affected by market and infrastructure disruptions. The study underlines areas for interventions at community and national level that should be prioritized in unstable economic settings and can inform policy-making process in the stage of COVID-19 recovery.

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