Many young people drawn to extremist groups such as Boko Haram know “little to nothing” about Koranic texts and interpretations, according to a UN study.
The survey, which profiled nearly 500 voluntary recruits to militant groups including al-Shabab and Boko Haram, found that finding a job is “the most acute need at the time of joining a group.”
The study also found that government action is a “tipping point”.
Most of those who responded to the survey talked about a lack of parental supervision and unhappy childhoods.
Researchers from the UN Development Programme (UNDP) spoke to recruits in Nigeria, Cameroon, Kenya, Niger, Somalia and Sudan to compile the report. They also interviewed people who did not become radicalised, but have similar backgrounds to those who were.
Based on these sample groups, they say that receiving “at least six years of religious schooling [is] shown to reduce the likelihood of joining an extremist group by as much as 32%”.
Recruitment is “predominantly face-to-face” rather than online as outside Africa, and the report says that many recruits come from borderland areas that have “suffered generations of marginalisation”.
The killing or arrest of a family member or friend is a key trigger, according to the report, with over 70% of interviewees saying this or another form of government action was the “tipping point” before the final decision to join a militant group.
Intervention at a local level is the best way to prevent young people from being radicalised, the UNDP report says.
They suggest “community-led initiatives aimed at social cohesion” and “amplifying the voices of local religious leaders who advocate tolerance”.
While Boko Haram is active in Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger, Al-Shabab is based in Somalia but often stages attacks in Kenya.