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The contagion of violent extremism in West African coastal states

Workshop report on the event 'The contagion of violent extremism in West African coastal states'.

Africa - Fight Against Terrorism - Format: PDF - Size: 1.28 MB - Date: Oct, 2022 - Pages: - Copyright: NATO Strategic Direction South HUB - Tags: Terrorism, West-Africa

Rising instability and the deteriorating security situation in the Sahel have generated concerns among neighboring West African states about the effects of regional spillover. This report aims to shed light on the potential vulnerability of West African coastal states to the spread of violent extremism and to carry out an in-depth investigation into the state of governmental and regional efforts to counter the security and social challenges associated with this growing vulnerability.


Since 2016, there have been incidents tied to the presence of Terrorist and Violent Extremist Organizations in some of the border communities of Benin, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, and Togo (the main focus of this report), as well as reports of preaching, recruitment and local development initiatives by violent extremists.

The report approaches the phenomenon of the contagion of violent extremism by firstly presenting background research carried out by the African Centre for the Study and Research on Terrorism and the NSD-S HUB and, secondly, highlighting the main takeaways of a Subject Matter Expert (SME) Workshop conducted as part of the report methodology. The Workshop was held with the participation of more than 30 SMEs drawn from key institutions based in the West African sub-regions, including international organizations, state institutions and non-governmental organizations.

Key insights

  • Violent extremist activities have been growing in recent years in West African coastal states, radiating there from the Sahel.
  • Although the security situations of the four countries assessed herein are not directly comparable to the very severe situation in the Sahel, the appearance of certain violent extremist groups at the northern border areas of Benin, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, and Togo is cause for concern.
  • Multiple factors such as ideological and religion-inspired extremism, governance deficits as violent extremism catalysts, structural socio-economic conditions, and historical grievances and rivalries were identified as vulnerability factors in coastal states.
  • Having recognized the devastating effects of violent extremism, there have been efforts aimed at preventing the spread of violent extremism by the states and international stakeholders. The countries have widely accepted that the spread of violent extremist ideologies cannot be halted by purely legal and armed means. The development of society, embracing communities which have been left behind by economic and social investments have become key.
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