Violent extremist ideologies and terrorism have become a serious concern for the progress of the Southern Africa region as far as regional economic integration efforts are concerned.
In January 2021, African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) became fully operational to allow free movement of people, goods, and services among Africa countries. According to UNCTAD, the AfCFTA is expected to offer a mega-market of 52.3% or $34.6 billion in 2022 of intra-African trade that will be boosted once import duties and non-tariff barriers are eliminated.
However, with the current situation of the threats of insurgency and violent extremism posed in Cabo Delgado Province in Mozambique which also threatens peace and stability of other neighbouring countries in the SADC region, its likely for the entire bloc to face setbacks that will prevent it from benefitting from the free movement of people, goods and services. This is due to the strict security measures that will need to be put in place as a result of retaliating and containing the threats of the insurgents’ attacks.
Dead and displaced in Southern Africa
So far, the conflict has left at least 2,000 civilians dead and displaced 670,000 more in recent years, as noted by humanitarian groups. Therefore, instead of the SADC Member States focusing their efforts on attaining the regional development plans as well as global and continental blueprints such as Agenda 2030 and Agenda 2063, they are forced to direct more resources towards peacemaking and peacekeeping efforts as well as providing humanitarian support to refugees or displaced innocent citizens. As a result, the implementation of development initiatives in the SADC region will significantly slow down and affects socio-economic development at large.
For instance, according to the SADC Secretariat, on 16th July 2021, the instruments of authority for the deployment of the SADC Standby Force to Mozambique were presented as a step towards addressing terrorism and violent extremism in Cabo Delgado. This is a major step considering the complex nature of the problem which goes beyond the territorial borders of Mozambique hence pushing for both national and regional solutions integrating soft and hard power interventions that are resource-intensive.
Regional Counter-Terrorism Centre to prevent terrorism
Consequently, to prevent future unnecessary military intervention in the region, the Member States have to work together in building sustainable peace by addressing early warning signs of any terrorism threats before they escalate into a major conflict affecting thousands of people in the region. That is why the recent move by the Member States to operationalise the Regional Counter-Terrorism Centre to prevent and combat terrorism in the region has come at the right time where the need to promote a peaceful and secure Africa is needed more than ever and should be welcomed by all stakeholders.
In a nutshell, there is a major nexus between development and peace, hence having an institution such as a Regional Counter-Terrorism Centre will be a big win for the SADC regional efforts on counter-terrorism and violent extremism. It will also help the Member States to coordinate and enhance their individual and collective capacity to conduct defensive, offensive, also preparing short-term and long-term solutions to combat terrorism and its root causes.
Addressing the root causes of terrorism will offer room for the Member States to be able to easily contain the problem by preventing new recruitment as well as preventing financial and non-financial resources from getting into terrorist organisations cells. These efforts will blow up terrorist organisations’ plans to expand and conduct big operations in the region and reassure our regional and continental aspiration to silence the guns.