Discordant Development and Insecurity in Africa

Editor's Note: This chapter is part of the 2013 Foresight Africa full report, which details the top priorities for Africa in the coming year. Read the full report here.

Highlights

  • A root cause of insecurity and violent conflict in Africa that is often overlooked by security analysts is discordant development”— deepening inequalities and rapid progress juxtaposed with group distress.
  • Insecurity is the flip side of discordant development, whether previously in the oil-producing Ni­ger Delta, in recurrent inter-communal violence in the Middle-Belt (central Nigeria) and recently in the appalling onslaughts in the northeast attributed to Boko Haram.
  • A principal cause of discordant development is the African jigsaw bequeathed by the colonial carve-up of the continent.
  • Sustaining growth and avoiding discordant develop­ment require enlightened leaders, ro­bust democratic institutions and vigilant civil societies.

Richard Joseph explores how “discordant development”—deepening inequalities and rapid progress juxtaposed with group distress— is often one of the root causes of uncertainty, insecurity and violent conflict in Africa.  For example, Mali and Ghana have experienced similar growth rates but Mali is sundered and in disarray, while Ghana has experienced both political and economic progress.

Joseph discusses the causes of discordant development and provides recommendations for how policymakers can begin tackling this problem in order to address broader issues of insecurity.  Joseph contends that sustaining growth and avoiding discordant develop­ment require not only enlightened leaders but also ro­bust democratic institutions and vigilant civil societies.  He warns development officers and political leaders against viewing Africa solely through “polarizing lenses,” either screening out security challenges in growing economies or overlooking axes of growth in conflict-plagued societies.