Islamist extremism remains potent in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), with West Africa and the Sahel particularly affected. The last three years have seen a significant decline in total terrorism-related deaths per year in SSA, mainly due to the decrease in activity of Nigeria-based Boko Haram.
The G5 Sahel security alliance has reclaimed significant territory from Boko Haram, but the group retains influence throughout the Lake Chad basin.
Porous borders in West Africa and the Sahel continue to hamper regional efforts to combat terrorism threats, as terrorist groups seek to destabilize the entire region.
Loss of territory in the Middle East will also drive a pivot towards SSA by IS and al-Qaida.
There is a strong likelihood of organizations such as al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) pooling resources with splinter groups and militias, particularly in Somalia, Niger, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, and northern Mali.
This means that individuals and businesses remain exposed to attacks, including IEDs, shootings, and kidnappings.
Al-Qaida-affiliated Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM) remains a significant threat across the Sahel.
The group is shifting its target set to national and international government assets, away from soft targets. French companies will likely remain particularly exposed across the region.
Key Terrorist actors in 2019
Al-Qaida In Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)
Ansar al Islam
Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM)
Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS)
Which Sectors Are Most Exposed?
Islamist extremism is a risk to firms operating in Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, and Nigeria. Mali accounts for 75% of all terrorist incidents across the Sahel region since 2015.
While mines in southwest Mali are relatively sheltered from direct attacks, porous land borders contribute to an underlying risk.
Mali-based militants are also active in Burkina Faso, where mining sector employees have become a principal target for kidnappings.
Retail and hospitality
Soft targets such as hotels, shopping malls, and restaurants remain attractive targets for terrorist actors across SSA, given the concentration of foreign nationals in these locations.
Attacks are likely to include the use of IEDs and firearms.
Recent major incidents include attacks on a shopping complex in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2013; a hotel in Bamako, Mali, in 2015; and a complex in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2019.