new trajectory

Benin, Ghana, Nigeria…West Africa, the new hub of cocaine

By Damien Glez

Posted on March 30, 2023 16:03

 © By Damien Glez
By Damien Glez

A UN report has underlined the growing involvement of West African areas in drug trafficking, particularly of a certain white powder…

A lot of things change without changing, that’s according to the this year’s Global Cocaine Report 2023, released by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

If the global supply of the tropane alkaloid extracted from the coca leaf seems to have officially increased by 35% in less than two years, it’s difficult to know if the statistics reflect an increased efficiency of law enforcement seizure measures (with seizures multiplying), the opportunity provided by improvements to coca leaf-to-cocaine hydrochloride conversion, or a noticeable increase in the demand for psychotropic drugs, particularly after a down period during the onset of Covid-19.

If the main destinations for cocaine appear unchanged over time – particularly in Western and Asian countries  – its  trajectory has evolved.

With Guinea-Bissau having been identified as the African drug epicentre in the past 20 years, the continent’s western region has now grown to become its cocaine hub, courtesy of Colombia and Brazil.

A variety of oceanic vessels are responsible for transporting the illicit merchandise from the Americas to African coastal countries like Senegal, Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Benin, and Nigeria.

These destinations serve as transit zones to Asia, notably by way of East or Southern Africa, where drugs can be concealed in the luggage of seminar participants, in attieke containers, or in the stomachs of drug mules, known as individuals who swallow cellophane bales ahead of international travel.

Concerning transit to Europe, Côte d’Ivoire dismantled a year ago, a major cocaine trafficking network between South America and Europe – a case with political ramifications.

Downstream from these coastal countries, it is often the Sahelian land corridors that are used to reach the Mediterranean Sea, particularly the areas controlled by armed terrorist groups.

In Algeria, Niger, Mauritania, Mali, and Burkina Faso, various drugs are smuggled in, including cocaine, cannabis, tramadol, and adulterated alcohol. These illicit activities are the flip side of the current security crisis, and specialists no longer hesitate to describe some West African countries as narco-states.

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