Africa: Terror Groups Target Youth to Join Their Ranks

Kenya Defence Forces soldiers under the Africa Union Mission in Somalia in Kismayo (file photo).

Almost 10 percent of African youth have been approached by recruiters of various militia as terrorism emerges as one of the biggest concerns for the youth in the continent.

Nearly 30 percent of young people identified "fighting terrorism" and "achieving peace and stability" as the most important issues that require urgent action for the African continent to progress and move forward.

This is according to The African Youth Survey 2020, released by the South African-based Ichikowitz Family Foundation on December 4.

The survey findings come as reports emerge that Islamists in Cabo Delgado province of Mozambique have been recruiting youth in Tanzania. The Islamists were recently blamed for attacks on villages in the south of the country near the border with Mozambique.

Experts say that the radicalisation of Muslim youth on the eastern African Coast, starting in Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania and into northern Mozambique, have mutated into insurgency based on sectarianism.

According to the Ichikowitz survey, 71 per cent of the youth surveyed are concerned about terrorism with the highest concerns found in East Africa at 78 percent, followed by West Africa at 76 percent.

Survey participants

The Foundation interviewed a total of 4,200 participants (aged 18-24) from across 14 sub-Saharan African countries -- Congo Brazzaville, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Togo, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The survey report says that in the next five years, concerns of terrorism will be the sixth-biggest issue facing the continent, with corruption and job creation viewed as the most pressing issues that must be addressed to move the continent forward.

According to Ivor Ichikowitz, South African industrialist, philanthropist and founder executive chairman of the Ichikowitz Foundation, action must be taken urgently to avoid the spread of terrorism and its evolution in to a much bigger problem.

"Despite a decrease in conflicts across Africa, we have witnessed a rise in terrorism in large parts of our continent; Isis is taking root as far south as Mozambique; Al Shabaab controls much of southern Somalia and even small pockets in Kenya along the Somali border," said Mr Ichikowitz.

He added that poaching is one of the big funders of terrorism.

The report says that the youth are the targets for recruitment by terrorist groups, factions that have historically and routinely exported their tactics and their members abroad.

Two weeks ago, Tanzanian youth were arrested in the southern part of the country as they tried to cross over to Mozambique to join Islamists in Cabo Delgado.

Piers Pigou, the International Crisis Group senior consultant for southern Africa, said that insurgency has no physical leadership, nor clear message and IS are just talking advantage of ripe conditions for exploitation.

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