Poverty feeds terrorism by eroding a basic human need: the need to belong. This may seem like an unlikely place to begin a conversation on terrorism, but after growing up in one of Africa’s largest urban slums for most of my life, I am certain that nurturing a sense of belonging in young people through economic opportunity and the cultivation of community is essential for curbing the spread of terrorism.
My home of Kibera in Nairobi, Kenya, is one of the largest urban slums in Africa. Growing up there and starting the grassroots movement Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO) age 16, I saw in the young people around me an intense desire to belong to society and to be seen as valuable contributors.
Instead, lack of opportunity drove many promising youths I knew into gangs and terrorist groups. And as the 10-to-24 age group is expected to almost double to 605 million by 2050, the numbers of disaffected young people and threats to regional and world peace will grow with it.