SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit

Conflict and Private Economic activity (COPE)

A new ESRC-funded project investigates the impact of violent conflict on the composition of investment in entrepreneurial activities in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). The Conflict and Private Economic Activity (COPE) project is led by Dr Tommaso Ciarli, with Giuseppe Maggio and Clionadh Raleigh from the University of Sussex, alongside academics from the World Bank and the National Center For Technology Management (NACETEM) at the Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria.

The project addresses two of the main Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) themes – shocks, security, risks and resilience; and building institutions in Fragile and Conflict States (FCS) – looking at how they relate to economic development. Whilst the UNCTAD Report (2015) suggested that entrepreneurship plays a role in fostering peace and bringing stability to communities, existing evidence provides limited insight into households’ investment choices during times of conflict, and on firms’ growth. It is unclear to what extent existing evidence can be generalised across different forms of conflicts, institutions and geographies.

COPE aims to build a new dataset by matching and harmonizing around 35 household surveys and violent conflict events for up to 18 fragile and conflict states in Sub-Saharan Africa. It will uniquely combine several sources on household, conflict, and other geo-referenced data.

The researchers will examine the impact of conflict on households’ occupations, with particular focus on formal and informal private economic activities as well as investigate how institutional, geographical and individual characteristics influence households’ entrepreneurial choices. They will also explore how changes in conflict intensity affect firm growth in size, investment and profits.

COPE focusses on the composition of private economic activity, rather than level, distinguishing by sector, capital intensity, firm size and income generation. It will substantially improve knowledge of the causal relation between conflict and private economic activity through the implementation a novel spatial identification strategy.

Impact and outreach

COPE’s findings will support a broad range of stakeholders in articulating responses to the effects of conflict on the private sector. It hopes to inform evidence-based policy to fine-tune institutional and geographic conditions under which firms and entrepreneurs would be able to invest in more productive activities that would fuel economic growth, generate employment, and increase inclusion. The research is therefore particularly relevant not only for the academic community, but also for: policy makers; peace builders and peace keepers; NGOs operating in the field; employers; public, social and private enterprises; trade unions; training institutions; and all who seek a better understanding of employment and investment decisions in different conflict related conditions.

Drawing upon connections in government, international bodies and NGO experts, COPE unites academic research with policy impact (World Bank, Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR), PeaceDirect) to ensure dissemination across a wide range of academic and non-academic audiences. The project aims to directly inform governing bodies that aim to foster entrepreneurship, development and increase conflict resilience at national and international levels.

The project will conduct three engagement and dissemination events across Sub-Saharan Africa, produce policy reports and research briefs, and create an advisory commission on policy action and include stakeholders in project activities. The collaboration with PeaceDirect is essential component of dissemination as the organization has committed to communicate the results from the research across different countries, translating the policy messages in local languages.


  • University of Sussex
  • The World Bank
  • NACETEM, Obafemi Awolowo University

COPE is funded by the Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC) – as part of the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).

The work builds on Dr Ciarli and Dr Menon’s PEDL project on Afghanistan and Iraq, and on Dr Maggio’s extensive experience in the use of household data to study the impact of shocks and conflict on economic development.

Further information

Read the Research Brief 'Small Firm Dynamics Under Cofnlict: Evidence from Nigeria'

Photo courtesy of Tobin Jones via Flickr