THIS IS A SUMMARY OF AN EVENT WITH DR. EMMANUEL KWESI ANING
- West Africa is facing difficult challenges, including young and growing populations, rapid urbanisation due to urban migration, growing income disparity and inequality, very low HDI rankings, weak justice systems, weak infrastructure and political instability.
- This instability has led to the formation of criminal networks and organizations, in turn leading to an emphasis on drug trafficking as a major local trade.
- Drug trafficking has been key to West African nations for approximately 100 years. However, the industry has expanded rapidly due to a strategic shift by drug syndicates in Latin America and Central America towards the European market. When this was challenged by both the US and Mexican governments, trade was diverted through West Africa.
WEST AFRICA & THE DRUG TRADE
- Drug traffickers are looking for weak but functional countries: for example, nations with functional institutions that allows access to decent systems to engage in money laundering.
- The geography of West Africa makes it a conducive place for the drug business.
- New transport infrastructure has led to easier accessibility for traffickers. Air traffic control is so poor that it does not pick up on infiltration.
IMPACT OF THE NARCOTIC INDUSTRY ON WEST AFRICAN SOCIETY
- The proceeds from the drug business have a ‘positive’ spinoff on the state: reinvestment back into the local economy.
- Those who have made significant amounts of money from the drug industry and who then reinvest this money in their local community are romanticised in West African society.
- The success of the narcotic industry is in part down to the relationships it has with people in positions of power (for example, businessmen, politicians, clergymen, security forces).
- The narcotics business also provides access to government and high society.
- Aning’s 2009 UN Security Council Report on Mali highlights the collusion between criminal gangs and senior military and political officials.
- Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is ‘not a religious group’, rather it uses religious rhetoric to promote their criminal organizations with an aim of making profits.
- The strategy used to crack down on drug trafficking is inefficient. Improvements need to be made in terms of funding, corruption and limited inter-agency collaboration and co-operation.
- A number of encouraging initiatives attempting to end drug trafficking by the Economic Community of West African States, the African Union and the UN Office in West Africa have begun. However, a more holistic approach is needed bringing in governments and multi-national agencies in order to effectively combat this threat.