Social unrest, terrorism and other forms of political violence events are highly unpredictable. These events are driven by human intent and intelligence, both of which are extremely difficult to model accurately. This has resulted in a scarcity of insurance products that cover these types of perils. Links have been found between the incidence of political violence and various economic and socioeconomic variables, but to date no relationships have been identified in South Africa. The aim of this study was to address this. Firstly, by identifying relationships between the incidence of social unrest events and economic and socio-economic variables in South Africa and secondly by using these interactions to model social unrest. Spearman’s rank correlation and trendline analysis were used to compare the direction and strength of the relationships that exist between protests and the economic and socio-economic variables. To gain additional insight with regards to South African protests, daily, monthly, quarterly and annual protest models were created. This was done using four different modelling techniques, namely univariate time series, linear regression, lagged regression and the VAR (1) model. The forecasting abilities of the models were analysed using both a one-step and n-step forecasting procedure. Variations in relationships for different types of protests were also considered for five different subcategories.
Spearman’s rank correlation and trendline analysis showed that the relationships between protests and economic and socio-economic variables were sensitive to changes in data frequency and the use of either national or provincial data. The daily, monthly, quarterly and annual models all had power in explaining the variation that was observed in the protest data. The annual univariate model had the highest explanatory power (R2 = 0.8721) this was followed by the quarterly VAR (1) model (R2 = 0.8659), while the monthly lagged regression model had a R2 of 0.8138. The one-step forecasting procedure found that the monthly lagged regression model outperformed the monthly VAR (1) model in the short term. The converse was seen for the short-term performance of the quarterly models. In the long term, the VAR (1) model outperformed the other models. Limitations were identified within the lagged regression model’s forecasting abilities. As a model’s long-term forecasting ability is important in the insurance world, the VAR (1) model was deemed as the best modelling technique for South African social unrest. Further model limitations were identified when the subcategories of protests were considered. This study demonstrates that with the use of the applicable economic and socio-economic variables, social unrest events in South Africa can be modelled.