Corona Conflicts? Analysing Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Violent Conflict in Africa

  • At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, decision-makers warned that the pandemic might lead to more violent conflict in fragile states, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. This project engages in a mixed-methods approach to study related relationships.
    Volkswagen Foundation, 2021-2022


    Mora Deitch

    Research Fellow


    Prof. Dr. Matthias Basedau

    Director of the GIGA Institute for African Affairs / Editor GIGA Focus Africa

    Research Questions

    * Does the COVID-19 pandemic increase violent conflicts in sub-Saharan Africa?
    * How does the pandemic as well as government and societal responses to it create new or escalate existing conflicts?
    * What contextual factors such as fragility and other conflict risks contribute to the escalation of conflict?
    * What policies seem promising to avoid escalation for the present and future pandemics?

    Contribution to International Research

    The project enagages in one of the first comprehensive analysis of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on violent conflicts.

    Research Design and Methods

    It uses an innovative theoretical model of escalation as a result of the virus shock and employs a nested research design that combines cross-country regressions and pertinent case studies.

    Preliminary Findings

    Our first round of analysis suggests that the pandemic contributes to conflict escalation. However, the most robust finding is that strict lockdowns increase "COVID-19 unrest", which forms a fraction of the violence only. Pre-pandemic fragility best explains a recent increase in violence in the region. However, there are indications that economic shocks will exacerbate existing distributional conflicts and elite power struggles in the future. This is best illustrated by the case studies of Ethiopia and South Africa where pandemic related effects like the postponing of an election (Ethiopia) and economic hardships by lockdowns (South Africa) contributed to esclation in 2020 and 2021 but were in themselves not the main causes of escalation.

    GIGA Focus Global | 3/2022

    COVID-19 and Violent Actors in the Global South: A Complex Relationship

    A cross-regional comparative analysis of the effects of COVID-19 on violence shows high levels of variation between contexts and in terms of specific armed actors. While Latin America along with the Middle East and North Africa have experienced an overall reduction, violence in sub-Saharan Africa has increased.

    Journal of Conflict Resolution | 06/2022

    Rebels with a Cause: Does Ideoloy make Armed Conflicts Longer and bloodier?

    Ideology may directly provide motive and indirectly capacity for collective violence, thus making armed conflicts longer and bloodier. The authors investigate these propositions by drawing on an innovative global dataset which codes ideological claims by rebel groups and governments in intrastate armed conflicts since 1946.

    Ass. Prof. Dr. Ariel Zellman


    Eine Pandemie der Gewalt? Covid-19 und die Zunahme bewaffneter Konflikte im subsaharischen Afrika

    Bundeswehr University Munich München: 28/06/2021

    Vortrag an der Universität der Streitkräfte in München


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