Deeplook: The Economic cost of Violence in Africa

“On average, countries in sub-Saharan Africa spend seven times less on violence containment than Europe and five times less when compared to the Asia-Pacific region.” an excerpt from the 2018 Global Peace Index report by the Institute for Economics and Peace.

Global peace has deteriorated consecutively in the last four years, and by 2.87 percent since 2008, this is according to the peace index report. This deterioration has come at an expensive cost – a $14.6 trillion impact on the global economy, equivalent to 12.4 percent of the gross world product. Africa’s second largest economy South Africa is one of three countries with the largest increase in internal security spending, and also makes up a quarter of the total economic cost of containing violence in Africa. A recent crime report by the country’s security agency stated that at least 57 people are murdered daily in South Africa.

Seven of the report’s bottom 16 countries considered to have very low prevalence of peace are African countries. Nigeria and Sudan which are among the seven, recorded $156.5 billion in direct and indirect cost of containing violence, equivalent to 22 percent of Africa’s total.

In this edition of deeplook, we delve into the details of the report as it concerns Africa. We look at the the total economic cost of violence, the composition of this cost and the biggest contributors. We will also show the most peaceful and least peaceful countries, the most improved, and most deteriorated countries, the intensity of militarization, the level of societal safety and security, and the existence of domestic and international conflict in selected countries in Africa.

Most Peaceful and Least Peaceful countries in Africa

Africa’s most peaceful country, Mauritius slipped one spot from previous year to 20th place on the index. Seven of the remaining nine occupy positions in the top 50, while Tanzania and Senegal which complete the list of 10 most peaceful African countries, occupy the 51st and 52nd positions in the global ranking.

The 10 least peaceful African countries are in the lowest fifth of the global index. South Sudan is the least peaceful country in Africa, and sits at 161st in the index, just two spots above Syria – the least peaceful country in the world.

Most Improved and Most Deteriorated African Countries in the Index

Gambia, Liberia, Burundi, and Senegal are four of five most improved countries in the global ranking, recording score improvements of up to 0.228 points.

DR Congo and Togo are listed as part of the five most deteriorated countries. Cameroon Lesotho and Ethiopia make up the remaining list of five African countries that had the most deteriorated peace index score.

The report based its ranking on three broad categories; the extent of a country’s militarization, the level of societal safety and security, and existence of domestic and international conflict.


Sierra Leone, Mauritius, Tanzania, Senegal and Madagascar, are the least militarized countries in Africa, scoring points between 1.404 and 1.518 in the index. The report showed the five most militarized countries in Africa had an index score of between 2.275 and 2.633. Although Libya showed remarkable overall improvements, it is the most militarized country in Africa, followed by South Sudan, Guinea Bissau, Egypt and Sudan.

Societal Safety and Security

Ghana ranks highest in Africa in terms of societal safety and security, scoring 2.012 in the index. Mauritius, Sierra Leone, Madagascar and Botswana are also in the top five. Societal safety and security covers internal violence not categorized as conflict. It also considers availability of small arms and incarceration. South Sudan with a score of 4.085 ranks lowest in Africa in this category, while Somalia, Central African Republic, DR Congo, and Libya make up the rest of the list.

Ongoing Domestic and International Conflict

Nigeria, is the fifth least peaceful country in the domestic and international conflict category, scoring 3.164 in the index. South Sudan with 3.546 points is ranked the least peaceful in Africa, while Botswana and Mauritius are the top two most peaceful countries in this category. Namibia, Zambia and Angola are ranked third, fourth and fifth respectively.


The Big Five Spenders

Africa spends 696.25 billion in containing violence. The top five countries that spend the most account for 70%, but Nigeria and South Africa alone, the top two economies, make up 42% of the sum. While Nigeria is fighting a terrorist sect in its North Eastern region and experiencing a deadly internal conflict involving herdsmen and farmers, South Africa continues to battle violent internal crimes. Egypt, Algeria and Sudan are the three other top five spenders on containing violence in Africa.

Composition of the Economic Cost in sub-Saharan Africa

Containing violent crimes and homicide gulps the largest portion of sub-Saharan Africa’s total cost of violence containment. Armed conflict, international security, and the military takes up 17 percent, 13 percent, and 10 percent respectively.