Serge Michailof » Articles



> « Programmed Explosion: The consequences of the rapid population growth in Sub Saharan Africa ». – KAS International Reports. 32: in: [27 June 2017]. – (Version allemande)

The African Sub-Saharan countries are demographically a special case and the most spectacular demographic changes in the whole of human history are currently taking place on the African continent. In the course of the XXth century, population has admittedly also grown in many other areas of the world. But this process did not take place anywhere near as rapidly as in Africa, where population has increased seven-fold. As the population boom of the XXth century in Africa will be followed by a second one in the 21st century, its impact will not stay limited to the African continent alone.
(article also available in German: Vorprogrammierte Explosion ?).

> « Sub – Saharan Africa: Worrying clouds on the horizon » – Humanitarian Alternatives July 2017

Having long been condemned to pessimism, Africa has unquestionably picked itself up, confronting considerable challenges- such as the recent Ebola crisis -, displaying encouraging economic growth and exporting its numerous talents. On the threshold of the 21 st century, a wave of Afro optimism gradually developed. Did we go too far, too quickly down this road? This is the argument I develop in this paper, venturing a parallel between the Sahel and Afghanistan, another well known “humanitarian land”. Tending more to Afro -realism I invite the reader to take stock of the perils which the continent will have to face, as well as the means it has at its disposal to overcome them.

> « New Threats to Africa’s Stability and Growth » – In “Africa Reset – A new Way Forward” Ted Ahlers and Harinder Kohli ed. Oxford University Press- 2017

While Africa is obviously doing much better that 15 years ago, the continent is nevertheless confronting two major new threats: The first is the contrast between successful countries and those seemingly doomed to failure. The second is that even the successful countries have not always been able to prevent the emergence of deep social and geographic inequalities, which have often been accompanied by rising tensions and increasing insecurity. Since this last phenomenon often combines with an erosion of authority as the state loses control over some peripheral regions, these regions become lawless zones that eventually threaten the integrity of the states.

This new type of threat is arising in a global context, where radical Islam has replaced the secular ideologies of the twentieth century that had barely penetrated Africa. It provides the populations of these regions with simplistic explanations for the misery into which they are plunged and establishes in their minds the responsibility of the West for all their ills. The most serious problem has now arisen in the French-speaking Sahel, where despite regional alliances, external support from France and the US, and billions of dollars spent on military budgets, insecurity is still developing, particularly around Lake Chad and in the north and center of Mali.
The key causes of these developments are generally the coincidence of strong demographic growth, a narrow economic base principally focused on relatively unproductive agricultural activities, vast territories that are difficult to control, populations fragmented into multiple ethnic or religious groups, and the presence of a large Muslim population subjected for several decades to strong Salafist propaganda. These constraints translate into considerable underemployment of a large cohort of young men entering the labor market without prospects. In some cases, these difficulties are heightened by marginalization or by economic or political discrimination. These countries or regions, described as “fragile,” are currently the target of attempts at destabilization carried out by jihadist groups on a sometimes mafia-like scale. These groups usually control specific economic circuits dealing with illicit trafficking (including weapons, cigarettes, drugs, and migrants).

While flashpoints threatening to spread very swiftly may require external military intervention, as was the case when French forces had to put a stop to a military offensive led by jihadist groups in Mali in 2013, this type of conflict can neither be settled by foreign armies nor definitively solved by military means alone. They require responding to the state’s shortcomings and, to this end, considerably strengthening not only the national armed forces but also consolidating—or in some difficult cases rebuilding—the entirety of the other state sovereign institutions, particularly the police, the judiciary and local administration. This type of consolidation can be part of an ambitious program of security sector reform, the scope of which must be expanded compared to current practice.

Since the poorest countries lack the fiscal resources to enable them to carry out this strengthening of their state apparatus, they are currently caught in a double impasse that is both budgetary and security-related. They risk falling into a conflict trap if they are not strongly supported in their efforts by donors, which up to now have carefully avoided involving themselves in security-related issues. The agenda of African governments facing these new threats needs to be ambitious, but it will be hard to implement.

Basically, these countries will have to (i) consolidate or rebuild their state apparatus and negotiate exceptional financial, technical, and political support from the West for this purpose; (ii) regain control of international aid spending so as to reorient it as far as possible toward the factors that fuel insecurity, particularly rural poverty, in order to create massive employment opportunities; and (iii) undertake wide-ranging reform of their education systems and vocational and technical training programs. (iv) In addition, the massive creation of jobs demanded by their exceptional level of demographic dynamism also means facilitating the development of a dynamic private sector. (v) Finally, these multiple efforts will remain insufficient if the rate of population growth is not brought down to a level compatible with the countries’ economic capacities. The implementation of such policies will require exceptional communication and pedagogical efforts.

The restoration of security throughout this region implies a very important ideological dimension. Therefore, it is imperative that governments engage in a courageous struggle against Islamic fundamentalism and jihadist ideology. The success of such a comprehensive response to the security challenge presupposes that governments demonstrate the political will to act simultaneously on these various axes by building coalitions adapted to the exceptional scale of the challenges they face.


> article New African mars 2016
THE RECENT French intervention in Mali made obvious to the world the immense fragility of the entire Sahel zone—a sub-Saharan region covering some seven million square kilometers.