Organized crime continues to affect West African countries
A report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) shows that transnational organized crime markets continue to fuel instability and hinder development in West Africa.
Transnational organized crime continues to affect vulnerable West African countries, says new UNODC report
Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, 25 February 2013 (UNODC) – A report released today by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) shows that transnational organized crime markets and the vast profits they generate continue to fuel instability and hinder development in West Africa. The report, Transnational Organized Crime in West Africa: a Threat Assessment, analyses the dynamics of key crime markets and provides recommendations for the international community to tackle these problems.
“Transnational organized crime is clearly a serious threat to West Africa”, says Pierre Lapaque, UNODC Regional Representative for West and Central Africa. “State institutions and the rule of law are weak in most of these countries, and unless these organized crimes are tackled, instability is likely to persist and increase”.
Cocaine trafficking is the most lucrative criminal activity. Although the flow of cocaine through the region has declined to about 18 tons per year in 2010 from a peak of 47 tons in 2007, the profits from this illicit trade may still be larger than the national security budgets of several West African countries. While in the past the cocaine remained the property of South American groups who simply made use of West African logistic services, nowadays, it appears that West Africans criminal groups are increasingly independent in bringing the drugs to their region.
Cocaine is not the only illicit drug affecting the region, however. One worrying development is the emergence of methamphetamine production and related trafficking. Two methamphetamine labs were detected in Nigeria in 2011-2012, and some 3,000 methamphetamine couriers travelled from West Africa to East Asia in 2010, carrying drugs worth some US$360 million. Moreover, heroin is increasingly detected in the region, which is another indication that West African criminal groups are playing a more prominent role in this transnational market as well.
Other criminal markets discussed in the report include the smuggling of migrants from West Africa to Europe, the trafficking of fraudulent pharmaceuticals from Asia to West Africa, and maritime piracy within the region.
While the trends and profits for these diverse markets vary, their potential for causing corruption, promoting conflict and impeding development remains too large for the region to deal with on its own.
West African States need to do more in terms of data collection and sharing, regional coordination in law enforcement and enhanced drug treatment and rehabilitation services, to mention some recommendations, but they will need support from the international community to make substantial progress in reducing the negative impact of transnational organized crime on the region’s development, according to the report.