COSTS OF INSECURITY: The Impacts on Trade, Investment, and Productivity in the Lake Chad Region

The Lake Chad region’s insecurity cost has risen dramatically over the years. Lake Chad, which spans sections of Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon, and Chad in Central Africa, is home to many people who rely on it for their livelihoods. However, the region’s security instability has had a significant economic impact, as insurgency, terrorism, banditry, and communal disputes have resulted in displacement, loss of life and property, and disruption of economic activity. Lake Chad region’s insecurity is rooted in the advent of Boko Haram in Nigeria. The jihadist group has committed several violent crimes such as bombings, kidnappings, and killings to establish an Islamic state throughout the region. Millions of people have been displaced, and the economies of nearby Niger, Chad, and Cameroon have been impacted.

Political instability, ethnic tensions, and transnational criminal activity including smuggling and human trafficking are other aspects of the region’s security environment. Because of these elements, the security environment has become multifaceted, making it challenging for governments and international organisations to respond effectively to the increasing security challenge. It is instructive to note that the Lake Chad region was a commerce hub connecting West and Central Africa with the Middle East. This insecurity crisis has negatively impacted the state of the economy in the region.

Economic Costs of Insecurity

Insecurity in the Lake Chad region has enormous and extensive economic costs. The disruption of economic operations is one of the main consequences of insecurity in the area. Millions of people have been displaced due to conflicts, and they have been forced to leave behind their homes, farms, and businesses. As a result, trade, investment, and agricultural output have all decreased in the area. Additionally, the cost of conducting business in the area has increased due to the instability.

The cost of insecurity in the Lake Chad region was estimated to be between 2015 and 2019, according to a report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Over the same period, this cost represents 3.8% of the region’s GDP. Furthermore, if the security situation does not improve, the projection is that the economic cost in the region may increase to $14.8 billion by 2029.

The loss in agricultural output is one of the key negative consequences of insecurity in the area. The region around Lake Chad is renowned for its rich soil, which is excellent for agriculture. A decrease in food production resulting from the conflicts has forced many farmers to be displaced from their farms. As a result, there has been a growing reliance on food help, which has put an added strain on the resources of foreign aid organisations.

Furthermore, insecurity has led to declining trade and investment in the region. Many companies have either scaled back their operations or left the region altogether due to increased business costs. Insecurity deters an enabling environment for investment opportunities. Potential investors are threatened by the state of insecurity in the region, restraining them from investing. Every investor wants to do it in a favourable environment with enough financial protection. Given that they know the Lake Chad Basin is a conflict area, it becomes a serious challenge to venture into a business deal in such a region. This has seriously impacted the region’s economy as there is a massive decline in the production of food and services leading to a high rate of unemployment and poverty.

The African Development Bank reported that between 2014 and 2016, foreign direct investment in the Lake Chad region fell by 36%. The research also observed that a decrease in trade has coincided with a decline in investment, with a 27% and 19% dip in the value of exports and imports, respectively.

Additionally, the area’s military spending level has increased due to insecurity. Governments have been forced to allocate a significant amount of resources to combat the threat posed by Boko Haram and other armed organisations. Military spending in the Lake Chad region increased by 9.8% between 2016 and 2017, according to a Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) study. Therefore, governments and international organisations must address the security situation to maximise regional stability and harness the region’s economic potential.

Human Costs

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimates that the insecurity in the area around Lake Chad has resulted in the displacement of around 3 million people. According to a UNDP report, the violence forced over 2 million individuals to leave Nigeria, totalling at least 2.8 million people who have had to relocate within their own nation. At least 265,000 additional individuals have sought asylum in neighbouring nations, mainly Cameroon, Chad, and Niger. At the same time, more than 280,000 have been forced to leave their homes and return to their countries of origin. Additionally, their numbers have increased, inflating the humanitarian demands that other unfavourable situations have exacerbated.

The forcible removal of many people from their homes, livelihood, and communities has greatly impacted their lives. Many people lack access to basic services like food, water, and healthcare due to displacement, which has exacerbated the humanitarian catastrophe. 

Loss of life is a predominant human cost of insecurity especially in the Lake Chad region–thousands of deaths, including 3,000 just in 2020 and 35,000 since 2011. Civilians make up the majority of the casualties. Conflicts have an impact on children, too. Approximately 3,500 child soldiers have been enlisted by Boko Haram and other armed groups since 2013, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), which has employed them in attacks and other violent crimes. Similarly, gender-based violence, including forced marriage, trafficking, and sexual assault, affected women and girls in the area. Social systems were disturbed by conflict, which made them vulnerable to abuse

The staggering and rising human costs of insecurity in the Lake Chad basin are immense. The conflict has significantly impacted millions of people in the region, and future generations will be affected by the trauma, displacement, and death.

International Organizations Interventions

The African Union has been actively involved to solve the Lake Chad region’s security situation. The African Union established the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF) to battle Boko Haram and other armed organisations in 2015. The MNJTF, which is made up of troops from Cameroon, Chad, Niger, Nigeria, and Benin, has successfully decreased the activity of armed organisations in the area.

The Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) and national and local authorities are directly supported by IOM’s work in the four riparian states of the Lake Chad Basin. These interventions span the humanitarian-development-peace nexus (HDPN). In accordance with the LCBC’s regional strategy for the stabilisation, recovery, and resilience of the Lake Chad basin (areas affected by crises, IOM supports the LCBC and its Member States in providing humanitarian aid to displaced populations, preventing and reducing conflict drivers, and assisting in the achievement of long-term solutions for conflict-affected populations.

Despite these initiatives, the security situation in the Lake Chad region is still unstable, and armed group attacks continue to occur frequently. Challenges including scarce resources, problems with coordination, and political unrest in some of the impacted nations have all reduced the effectiveness of these multinational initiatives.

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