In the sixth in the series of “IntelBriefs” on African security issues being produced by the Atlantic Council’s Michael S. Ansari Africa Center in partnership with the Soufan Group, an international strategic consultancy, Ansari Center director J. Peter Pham examines the spread of violent extremism by Islamist groups operating along the continent-wide Sahel belt as well as the increasing cooperation between the various groups—including al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Boko Haram, and al-Shabaab—and between the militants and other illicit networks.

Pham argues that the links forged between the various groups will prove, to varying degrees, to be ongoing challenges to governments in across Africa, especially in the Sahel. Moreover the violence and conflict thus fomented will shake investor confidence and, at the very least, cast a shadow over the otherwise largely positive economic prospects for the continent, dampening investor confidence in a region whose potential many are just beginning to discover.

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