Edward Affainie

Does (Income) Inequality Predict Conflict Between Ethnic and Religious Groups in Africa?

Supervisors: Professor Stefan Wolff and Dr Natascha Neudorfer 

The study examines the relationship between economic / income inequality and conflicts in Africa, particularly Nigeria, to determine whether the Gini coefficient is a reliable predictor of conflicts between ethnic and religious groups in Africa. While ethnic and religious diversity does not necessarily increase the risk of violent conflict, the existing research has been marred by the inability to explain "the how and the why" inequality mobilises some groups for violence. Notably, research has not established a definitive and direct link between economic inequality and ethnic conflict. Some quantitative studies have begun to appear in recent years that argue that the current literature's failure to link economic inequality with ethnic conflict may be due to improper conceptualisation and imperfect measurements rather than a fundamental lack of any causal effect. Given the strong association between inequality and conflict, a proper conceptualisation of inequality may prove to be important for acquiring new knowledge in linking them. Similarly, since the imperfect measurement could have severe consequences with linking inequality and ethnic conflict, it is imperative to identify the best measure for inequality to predict ethnic conflict correctly. These are questions that are currently unanswered and hence explored here.

Nigeria was chosen as a case study for both empirical and theoretical reasons. Nigeria is particularly significant in terms of the theoretical framework, which aims to understand the link between inequality and ethnoreligious conflict. Empirically, this study will use the measurement of inequality in Nigeria to test the Gini coefficient as a strong predictor of conflict. Nigeria is a regional powerhouse in Sub-Saharan Africa and Africa's most populous country, with significant economic, political, and military might. Nigeria is known for its significant differences, which result in critical political issues being fiercely and violently contested along ethnic, religious, and regional lines. The problems that cause the most controversy in Nigeria are those considered critical to this study.

Insights into these aspects are expected to contribute to the ongoing search for new approaches to resolving ethnic conflicts in Africa. These will be beneficial to the African Union (AU), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and developmental institutions such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The research can also be used as a reference for future studies. 


Edward Affainie is a retired Lieutenant Colonel from the Ghana Army (Infantry Corps) and a graduate of the Command and Staff College, Jaji-Kaduna, Nigeria, and the Ghana Armed Forces Command and Staff College. He holds an MSc in Security and Risk Management from the University of Leicester, UK. He previously worked at the United Nations Headquarters where he moderated memorandum of understanding between the United Nations and Member states and facilitated the deployment of troops for peacekeeping missions. He has served in various capacities in different peacekeeping missions in countries such as Cambodia, Southern Lebanon, Western Sahara, Liberia, Sudan and South Sudan. He is currently the Deputy Security Adviser for the United Nations Department of Safety and Security in Zimbabwe and a PhD student at POLSIS. His extensive length of professional experience as a military officer and an international civil servant contributes to his research interests.


  • MSc (Leicester)

Research interests

  • Causes of conflict
  • Conflict resolution
  • Protection of Civilians
  • Management
  • Leadership
  • Governance
  • Security

Contact details:

Email: eaa109@student.bham.ac.uk