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Beyond Dependence and Legacy: Sustainable Security in Sub-Saharan Africa

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Chris Abbott and Thomas Phipps
1 June 2009

Sub-Saharan Africa is too readily dismissed from the outside, but the regional perception is often one of optimism. It is an area rich in natural resources: ranging from oil and natural gas to other minerals such as chrome, nickel and zinc. Nearly half the population are under the age of 14, making the region free from the demographic burden of an ageing workforce prevalent in other parts of the world. There are also promising beginnings to regional approaches to tackling shared security problems; with the draft framework for a Common African Defence and Security Policy being a good example of this.

However, it is undeniable that sub-Saharan Africa does face considerable difficulties. It contains only 10% of the world's population but is the location of 90% of world malaria cases and home to 67% of world HIV sufferers. Conflict, famine, genocide and disease have all plagued the region over recent decades. Of all the regions of the developing world, sub-Saharan Africa remains the most marginalised and least likely to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Colonial powers, corrupt leaders and, to an extent, the NGO/aid complex have all contributed to the region's difficulties.

This report is based on the outcomes of a consultation that Oxford Research Group (ORG) and the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) held in South Africa in December 2008. Bringing together security experts, academics, former government officials and civil society leaders from across sub-Saharan Africa, the two-day meeting explored the implications of the sustainable security framework for the region. The Ford Foundation-funded consultation was the third in a series of regional meetings held over 2008-10 as part of ORG's Moving Towards Sustainable Security programme.

The meeting identified the regional drivers of insecurity as:

  • The nature of the state
  • Legacies of war and militarism
  • Resource management

The blockages to achieving change in the region were identified as:

  • The negative perception and treatment of Africa
  • Weak leadership and poor governance
  • Lack of regional coherence and identity

 The report includes an integrated analysis of these issues, together with recommendations for policy-makers. 

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