Stress Testing African States

Examining key risks to instability in 10 African States


The CSIS Africa Program has recently completed a series of case studies examining the risks of instability in 10 African countries over the next decade. The project was commissioned by the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM). These reports were released in hard copy and on this website in June of 2011.

The recent upheavals and revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa reinforce the value of taking a hard look at underlying social, economic, and political conditions that have the potential to trigger major change and instability. Few observers predicted the events that have unfolded with such speed in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya since the turn of 2011. But a close analysis of the underlying fault lines in those countries may have offered some clues, uncovering a range of possibilities that would have given U.S. policymakers a head start in framing responses and devising contingency plans. The purpose of these papers is to delve below the surface of day-to-day events and try to identify the underlying structural vulnerabilities and dynamics in region wide and in 10 countries.

The 10 papers are designed to be complementary but can also be read individually as self-standing country studies. The overview draws on common themes and explains the methodology underpinning the research. The project was commissioned by the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM). The papers in this series are not meant to offer hard and fast predictions about the future. While they sketch out some potential scenarios for the next 10 years, these efforts should be treated as thought experiments that look at how different dynamics might converge to create the conditions for instability. The intention is not to single out countries believed to be at risk of impending disaster and make judgments about how they will collapse. Few, if any, of the countries in this series are at imminent risk of breakdown. All of them have coping mechanisms that militate against conflict, and discussions of potential “worst-case scenarios” have to be viewed with this qualification in mind.

“These papers fill an important space in the literature on sub-Saharan Africa, providing good introductions for the non-specialist to these countries in less than thirty pages each. Scholarly experts in their respective fields authored each paper, and the arguments are carefully constructed.” –Ambassador John Campbell, Council on Foreign Relations