Globally as well as in the Eastern Africa region, violence and crime have been linked to youth joblessness, and perceived socio-economic exclusion from economic opportunities. The “economic link” to crime and violence is an old argument in scholarly studies that have attempted to connect economic deprivation, increased risk and youth vulnerability to crime, violence and disorder. 1 More recently, the growing youth population in Africa has often been cited by some scholars as an exacerbating risk factor for political violence and rebellions. In this respect, Paul Collier’s work on “greed and grievance” in fueling conflicts is well known and has made the case that lack of job and economic opportunities for both young men and women predispose societies to violence.
2 This is especially dire for young women, who face many barriers including marginalization in access to education and subsequently from formal employment.
3 Increasing and unplanned urbanization coupled with the lack of quality jobs has also been flagged as the harbinger of urban insecurity with young people living in unplanned settlements increasingly resorting to illicit work. 4 Due to lack of livelihood opportunities, young men and women in informal settlements may also engage in illicit economic activities including transactional sex. 5 Studies on terrorism have also suggested that economic deprivation and lack of livelihood opportunities provide the context of vulnerability to recruitment of youths into extremist movements. 6 Drawing from these assumptions therefore, there is strong policy view that investment in empowerment projects that provide jobs, and incomes to young men and women is a way of ensuring their economic and political inclusion and ultimately, reducing their risk and actual involvement in violence.
Not surprising therefore, the economic opportunities and violence nexus remains prominent in policy discourses globally and in Africa. Youth job creation and economic opportunity programmes remain politically popular and many international development actors continue to support projects that reference provision of jobs and economic opportunities as part of violence prevention and mitigation.
7 While these relationships and possible impact intuitively make sense, they remain largely untested through empirical data and research. There is very limited knowledge and data available on the extent to which such interventions actually contribute to reducing youth involvement in crime and violence; the extent to which they reach the vulnerable and “at risk,” youths; and what works well and what doesn’t work in addressing both the challenge of provision of jobs and economic opportunities and reduction of violence. Major public works and job creation programmes, such as the 2014 Kenya’s National Youth Service Cohorts Programme have not been systematically evaluated and studied for their impact on inclusion and violence reduction. Indeed, as one study on the linkage between violence and economic opportunities notes, “we still know too little empirically, let alone theoretically, about the relationships between labour market participation, institutions and relations and violence.”
8 To contribute to these gaps between policy intention and research evidence, The Centre for Human Rights and Policy Studies in collaboration with University of Dar-Es Salaam seeks to produce a special journal issue on the question of youth inclusion and prevention and reduction of violence and crime in Africa. Broadly, the special journal issue welcomes contributions to the broader scholarly discussions on youth empowerment and inclusion in Africa and the extent to which economic incentives and motivations contribute to prevention and reduction of violence. The journal issue will welcome both empirical and theoretical contributions that draw from African policy initiatives and programmes.
It is anticipated the special issue will be published in November 2021. Interested scholars and researchers should submit their abstracts to firstname.lastname@example.org by 8 March 2021.
1 A dated study in this respect is, Gary Becker “Crime and punishment: an economic approach”, Journal of Political Economy, (1968).
2 Paul Collier, “Doing Well out of War: an economic perspective”, in Berdal, Mats and David Malone (eds), Greed and Grievance: Economic Agendas in Civil Wars, (London and Boulder, CO: IDRC/Lynne Rienner 2000).
3 Maloiy, L. (2018). African Women and Economic Development: A Tale of Contradictions?. In Handbook of Research on Sustainable Development and Governance Strategies for Economic Growth in Africa (pp. 443-454). IGI Global.
4 David Kilcullen, ‘The City as a System: Future Conflict and Urban Resilience’, The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs, Vol. 36, No. 2, 2012.
5 Oduro, G. Y., Swartz, S., & Arnot, M. (2012). Gender-based violence: Young women’s experiences in the slums and streets of three sub-Saharan African cities. School Field, 10(3), 275-294.
6 For a nuanced and critical examination of this assumed link, see, Corinne Graff “Poverty, Development, and Violent Extremism in Weak States” in Confronting Poverty: Weak States and U.S. National Security. Susan E. Rice, Corrine Graff and Carlos Pascual (eds), (Brookings Institution Press, 2010).
7 Christopher Cramer, “Unemployment and Participation in Violence” World Development Report 2011 Background Paper. P. 3.