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Drug Trafficking as a Security Threat in West Africa

NCJ Number
Thibault le Pichon
Date Published
54 pages
This report presents current information on drug trafficking in West Africa, including drug seizures and arrest data for both West Africa and Europe, followed by a discussion of the potential impact of drug use and trafficking on crime and instability in the West African region.
West Africa has become a hub for cocaine coming on ships and planes from Latin America into poorly guarded West African ports and airfields. The shipments are then broken down into smaller consignments and sent to Europe by a variety of means. Distribution is mostly done by criminal groups among the West African diaspora. Seizures indicate that much of the cocaine is destined for Spain and the United Kingdom, the two largest cocaine markets in Europe. Because drug trafficking is a serious threat to security in West Africa, it is on the agenda of the United Nations Security Council, the Peacebuilding Commission, the Economic Community of Western African States, and the European Union. Drug money is corrupting the weak economies in the region. In some cases, the value of the drugs being trafficked is greater than the country’s national income. Drugs are also undermining the positive development of youth, since many youth are paid with cocaine for their services in the drug trafficking industry. The countries of West Africa are at risk of becoming sovereign in name only, as criminals in collusion with corrupt government officials and security services create narco-states that serve the interests of the drug trafficking industry rather than the country’s citizenry. This poses a serious threat to regional security because of the transnational nature of the crimes. By building a constructive regional response to this threat, there is a chance to promote the rule of law and equitable development of West Africa. 47 figures and appended list of parties to United Nations drugs and crime conventions