Cocaine: the West African connection

Activity: Academic Talks or PresentationsOral presentationResearch


This paper will assess the impact of the work of national, regional and international agencies on the trafficking of cocaine into the EU from South America via West Africa. It focuses on the work of the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) in the UK, Europol, and the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The ongoing instability in Guinea Bissau, which culminated with the military overthrow of the transitional government of Carlos Gomes Jr in April 2012, is doing little to stop the flow of cocaine from South America into the European Union. If this instability is taken in the context of the recent jailing in Senegal of two South Africans for cocaine trafficking, and the ongoing turmoil in Mali, then there is almost an inevitability that some estimates claim that cocaine worth $18bn a year is transiting this region of Africa. There is a tendency when looking at this issue to focus just on the criminal networks which are arranging the flow of cocaine through the region, but there is also a human cost – the UNODC 2011 World Drug Report estimates that in 2009 (the latest date for which figures are currently available) there were up to 2.3m cocaine users in west and Central Africa. This is a rise of 280 per cent on the UNODC’s estimate for 2008, despite cocaine production in Colombia falling to an “11-year low” in 2009. The paper explores the roles played by European law enforcement bodies in tackling this trade, and asks whether the sheer size of the trade combined with the rampant corruption and collusion of the police and military in some areas has turned it from being West Africa’s problem to the world’s problem. The paper will also explore the role played both by existing organised crime networks in South America and Nigeria, and by emerging networks in the Guinea Bissau, Senegal and Mali. The paper concludes with suggestions for concrete measures that could be put into place to mitigate the impact of cocaine in this region, and to help stabilise the fragile democracies that exist
Period1 Oct 2012
Event title4th Annual Illicit Networks Conference
Event typeConference
LocationVancouver, CanadaShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational