Escalating security threats from militant Islamists, poor governance and a rising crossborder drug trade has caused west Africa to witness the most significant increase in risk of any global region, according to risk analysis firm Maplecroft's 2013 Global Risks Atlas. The Malian government’s ongoing conflict with Islamic militants in the north of the country, as well as the presidential coup d’état that occurred in Guinea-Bissau in 2012, were key events identified by Maplecroft as having caused west Africa’s business environment to experience a rapid rise in risk from crossborder threats.
Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Senegal and Mauritania were identified as the region’s most ‘high-risk’ countries for foreign investors, while Mali and Libya were reported as having experienced a particularly rapid increase in operational risks in 2012.
In Maplecroft's fifth Global Risks Atlas, which evaluates 179 countries globally across 36 risk issues, the vast majority of west Africa was reported as having a very low level of resilience to global risks, making it particularly vulnerable to external shocks. The presidential coup in Guinea-Bissau and the 2010 and 2011 post-election violence in Côte d’Ivoire, were given as examples of political turmoil that was particularly detrimental to foreign investment activity in the region.
The decline in governance in west Africa was cited as a catalyst for the growth of the illicit drug trade and Maplecroft reported that cocaine trafficking in the region has been expanding. With the exception of Ghana and Cape Verde, which are ranked as ‘medium-risk’ countries, countries within west Africa were all classified as ‘high-risk’ destinations by the report.
The high interconnectedness of west Africa has led to a spill over of violence. For example, the declining security situation in Mali was judged by Maplecroft as having played an integral part in the recent militant Islamist attack on Algeria’s In Amenas gas plant, in the eastern part of the country.