The Islamic State: Why Africa should be worried

The emergence of the Islamic State is the most significant development in Islamist extremism since the 9/11 attacks. It now controls significant portions of Iraq and Syria and has divided the global jihadist movement into two, offering a credible – and divisive – alternative to al-Qaeda. With its plethora of radical Islamist groups, Africa must consider the potential impact of this on the continent.

There are genuine concerns that the Islamic State’s thousands of African fighters, with access to the group’s considerable war chest, will return home to inflame existing conflict. Reports indicate this has already happened in Libya.

Africa should be worried, but it’s important not to overstate the threat. African governments must be careful not to use the spectre of the Islamic State to justify populist counter-terrorism measures that have failed in the past. 

About the author

Simon Allison is a senior reporter for the Daily Maverick, a South Africa-based digital publication, and a consultant with the Institute for Security Studies. He specialises in African news and analysis with emphasis on conflict, security and counter-terrorism. He holds degrees from Rhodes University and the School of Oriental and African Studies, and has lived and worked across Africa and the Middle East.