West Africa under attack

Cocaine on fire in Guinea-Bissau Photo: A. ScottiUNODC 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 destabilizing 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".

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