Radicalize youths in Africa: Only into Social Innovation.

Confusion, anger and resentment are what define the lives of those who have been affected by the scourge of terrorism. Starting with the latest incident at Garissa University College in Northern part of Kenya of which Al-shabbab Militants claimed responsibility, in Northern parts of Nigeria Boko Haram milllitia have constantly caused mayhem disturbing peace. This is the story in many other places throughout the world where terrorism has taken root. In all the happenings, blame has been solely been attached to radicalization. Radicalization has been demonized. I write this article to try and set the record straight. Radicalization can be what will save us Africans and the world from this mess that we have gotten ourselves into. Just like thecurrentanalyst.com observes in their article Drivers of Youth Radicalization in East Africa- youth radicalization is not normatively bad or it must not be stopped. It can be an entry point to social mobilization and social change.

I will start making my case by defining the word Radicalization. According to Oxford Advanced learner’s dictionary to Radicalize means to make people more willing to consider new and different ideas. In this definition I don’t read anything negative. We are the ones who have glorified negativity and associated the term with what we have come to fear most: terrorism. As a faithful student of social innovation, I see radicalization as the golden opportunity to cause positive social change in Africa through social creativity. Stanford Graduate school of Business centre for social innovation have defined social innovation as any novel and useful solution to a social need or problem that is better than existing approaches(more effective, efficient sustainable and just)and for which the value created accrues primarily to society as a whole rather than individuals. Is this not what we dream of as Africans?

The author of the book Art of Original Thinking Jan Philips has quoted Jean Houston saying we are all now agents for the next dispensation, the inspiration for bringing the culture of consciousness to the next possibility. And I believe that new possibility is the advent of youth social creativity that will help Africa to eradicate poverty, corruption and diseases. However, it should be noted that to bring anything into existence, to be a creator of circumstances, we have to imagine the new- radicalization of social innovators- speak the new then usher it into reality with the power of our intention, the passion of our beliefs.

Radicalization of social innovators should be key alternative ideology that we need to advance as a counter terrorism strategy in Africa while utilizing the existing social system and data. It is prudent that we understand which systems are employed by terrorist to advance their radical ideology and propaganda. That way, as social innovators we will act from a point of information. Social media has been termed as fertile platform for recruiting young people into these bloodthirsty groups. In an article how is ISIS still able to recruit supporters on Twitter? published in Global News quoting Berger and Morgan in a report for the Brookings Institute they said: much of ISIS’s social media success can be attributed to a relatively small group of hyperactive users, numbering between 500 and 2,000 accounts, which tweet in concentrated bursts of high volume,”. To effectively counter this then we need to understand social media systems. We need to be vigilant scouting for anyone advancing such primitive ideas and propaganda.

Daniel Goleman in his book Focus -The hidden driver of excellence- he dedicates some pages to discuss the topic on Messes and Super-wicked Problems. The problems range from Climate change, Terrorism Poverty, Diseases and myriad of other challenges. He observes that data can be a shrouded as a political tool by government and agents of terrorist groups hence the support for gathering that data by trusted parties and making it transparent should be the main objective of intelligence community. As Africans we need not to allow the voice of unreason to dominate the social media. Instead agents of voice of reason should be sponsored by governments to spend their time refuting the false information propagated by terrorists. Jan Phillips quoting George Garbener says that to control a nation you don’t have to control its military, all you have to do is to control who tells the nation stories. Nelson Mandela observed that education is the only weapon you can use to fight poverty and I add to for Africa to survive the terrorism menace education is sufficient. Educating and training should be our objective as Africa Governments.

But how did we get here as Africans In the first place? Why for Christ sake are we experiencing insurgent groups? How did we end up so individualistic especially in the African context where social ties were so strong? Me think, maybe our founding fathers never imagined of faster growth of population. Me think, their vision ended with them and their children not even grand children.

What will cause young people to join terrorist groups? Here is what Margarita Bizina et al in their paper Radicalization of Youth as a Growing Concern for Counter-Terrorism Policy in Global Security Studies, Winter 2014, Volume 5, Issue 1 states Socially isolated, disenchanted young men turn to extremism in their search for identity, acceptance and purpose. Personally I will say those who were to mentor failed to honour their responsibility. Those who were tasked to dream the future of Africa never fulfilled their obligation. They only dreamed as far as they had to in terms of selfishness. There was no vision. The bible says where there is no Vision the people perishes. We are in the highway to destruction unless we think of innovative ways of solving the social problems we are facing- unemployment, poverty and social injustices –perceived or real.

There are those who are in the better position to tackle the problems, they should not be left out. Most of my Muslim brothers and sisters have been hit by the same insurgent groups. I don’t deny most of those who have been recruited are from the Muslim community. But this does not mean for them to be isolated from the rest of the society but instead they should be recruited as gents of social innovation, spreading the new ideas. In most case the people being recruited don’t know the reality of what they are being recruited to, but because of desperation they are lured. We need to empower youths in Africa to join the fight against terrorism.

The youths are energetic ambitious and risk takers. When they are left out of the economic system, pushed to the periphery they would always want to get their way to the center that is how social evils are breed. A cat is humble, friendly and innocent. But the moment you push it to the wall, it would find a way out even with your eyes. That is the indomitable spirit of the African youth. We can radicalize them, not into terrorism but into Social Innovation Agents.


Jan Phillips The Art of Original Thinking – The Making of a Thought Leader (2006 )

Daniel Goleman Focus the hidden driver of excellence.


Margarita Bizina and David H. Gray Global Security Studies, winter 2014, Volume 5, Issue 1 Radicalization of Youth as a Growing Concern for Counter-Terrorism Policy

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