Policymakers from around the world met Monday and Tuesday in Senegal to discuss Africa’s most pressing security challenges. This year, attendees of an annual conference focused on redefining the role international partners play in promoting stability in Africa.
More than 1,000 people participated in the eighth edition of the International Forum of Dakar on Peace and Security.
Attendees included the heads of state from Cape Verde, Angola and Guinea-Bissau, as well as high-ranking officials from Japan, Saudi Arabia and France.
The event opened with a speech from Senegalese President and African Union Chairman Macky Sall, who spoke about the need to re-examine modern peace operations.
If U.N. peacekeepers are being attacked on their own bases, they can’t be expected to protect local populations, he said.
“Threats to peace and stability lie in the deep economic crisis that is shaking the world,” Sall said. “Millions of people can no longer bear the cost of living, and others fall into extreme poverty, with no hope of a better future.”
The solution, he said, is to educate and create employment for Africa’s growing youth population.
The conference took place in the wake of France’s withdrawal of military forces from Mali and ongoing criticism of U.N. missions throughout the region.
Militant Islamic violence in Africa has doubled since 2019, with a record 6,300 incidents in 2022 – a 21 percent increase over last year, according to the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, a U.S. Department of Defense research group. The Sahel has been the most impacted, with violent events quadrupling over the same period.
Across the continent close to 15,000 people have died this year from extremist-linked violence, a nearly 50 percent increase from 2019.
Aude Darnal, a fellow with the Stimson Center, a Washington research organization, said of the violence, “Solutions need to be defined by local actors. They also need to be implemented by local actors. International stakeholders should support, but the leadership needs to come from Africa.”
Nadia Adam, a Sahel analyst for the nonprofit Center for Civilians in Conflict, said solutions must be built from the inside. “Most African countries, especially the youth, now want to make decisions for themselves,” she said. “They want to be part of the change. And they have the capacity. More people are educated.”
Government officials attending the conference reiterated that message.
Chidi Blyden is the U.S. assistant secretary of defense for African affairs. In a speech, she quoted a Creole saying from Sierra Leone, which translates to “When and if there’s a problem, look exactly where you’re standing.”
“Some of the problems reside there, but more importantly, the solution probably resides there as well,” she said. “The continent is full of African solutions to global problems.”
The forum also addressed how to decrease Africa’s dependence on international food aid and become more resistant to external shocks, such as the war in Ukraine.