Over the past decade, the expanding threats from global jihadism and the sudden escalation of irregular migration in the Mediterranean have galvanized international attention and prompted prioritised support to the security infrastructure and border capacity of the states in the Maghreb. These actions, in response to the dominant threats of terrorists and migrants, have broadly been assumed to also cover the requirements of the region in terms of responding to the subsidiary, yet not inconsiderable, concern of organized crime.
The collapse of Libya into failed statehood following its 2011 revolution has been a widely lamented and yet largely misunderstood and understudied phenomenon. The general narrative suggests that this failure followed the 2014 civil-war, which ruptured the state, generated parallel administrations, and further fractured Libya’s militia-centric security provisions. The fact that the migration crisis erupted, and the city of Sirte fell to Daesh in 2015 is considered testament to this narrative which has underscored most international attempts to stabilise Libya through reconciling political factions.
North Africa is by most measures already an exceedingly hostile environment. It has relatively little arable land, next to no rainfall beyond the narrow coastal strip, and extreme temperature highs, which regularly top 45°C. Such is the region’s stark aridity that one can travel from the Nile river to the Atlantic Ocean, some 4000km (2500 miles), without stumbling on a single surface water source. These natural challenges have long posed considerable governance difficulties for regional states, who have struggled to bring development or prosperity to their poor, unsettled desert interiors. That failure has contributed to much of the Sahara’s emergence as a lawless node of discontent and instability.
North Africa represents one of the most important oil and gas producing regions in the world, and has the potential to be a renewable energy powerhouse as well. Its geographic situation makes it a crossroads between Europe, Africa and the Middle East, and an important transit corridor for global energy markets. Today, North African countries face a range of pressing socio-economic challenges, including solving the problems of poverty and high levels of structural unemployment, in the context of fast demographic growth. Energy is an essential commodity enabling socio-economic development. The current energy situation in the countries is characterized by a rapid increase of energy demand, low energy efficiency and low domestic energy prices due to extensive and universal consumption subsidies.