NODC has been warning for some time that West Africa is at risk of becoming an epicentre for drug trafficking and the crime and corruption associated with it.
At least 50 tons of cocaine from the Andean countries are transiting West Africa every year, heading north where they are worth almost $2 billion on the streets of European cities. Most cocaine entering Africa from South America makes landfall around Guinea-Bissau in the north and Ghana in the south. Much of the drugs are shipped to Europe by drug mules on commercial flights. Upon arrival, the cocaine is predominantly distributed by West African criminal networks throughout Europe.
The problem is getting worse. Cocaine seizures have doubled every year for the past three years: from 1,323 kilograms in 2005, to 3,161 in 2006, to 6,458 in 2007.
This is having a destabilising impact on security and development in West Africa. According to the Executive Director of UNODC, Antonio Maria Costa, “drug cartels buy more than real estate, banks and businesses, they buy elections, candidates and parties. In a word they buy power”.
In some reports, it is indicated that maps of the migration routes from places like Somalia or The Gambia into Libya and other North African states illustrate some of the continent’s most pressing economic and security challenges – but there are other illicit flows often associated with them.
The new World Drug Report 2017, released on Thursday, traces the routes by which heroin, cocaine and other drug trafficking is conducted while illustrating some of the links to armed jihadist organisations and their operations.
The report, issued by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), shows Ghana and Nigeria among the most frequently mentioned countries of origin in Africa for cocaine trafficking when identified after a seizure of a drug shipment took place. Routes through West Africa originating in South America are clearly marked.
For opiates – much of it passing from Pakistan, or Afghanistan through Central Asia – it was Tanzania, Kenya and Nigeria that saw the highest traffic.
“Some evidence suggests that Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, which operates primarily in North and West Africa, has been involved in cannabis and cocaine trafficking, or at least in protecting traffickers,” said the report section focused on terrorism and organised crime. “Individual commanders of the Movement for Oneness and Jihad (MUJAO) in West Africa, which broke away from Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, seem at present to be directly involved in drug trafficking.”
Boko Haram is implicated in smuggling heroin and cocaine across West Africa as well.
The report also includes an interactive map to explore where drug consumption is prevalent for nine different classes of drugs.