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Samantha Felix Samantha Felix

Video: How Drug Trafficking Is Threatening West Africa

West Africa's thriving drug trafficking industry is contributing to disease, organized crime and political corruption, a new report highlights.

3 Substance

In the past decade, West Africa has become a major hub for international drug trafficking, consumption and production. About a quarter to two-thirds of the cocaine produced in South America passes through West African countries before heading to Europe. The cocaine trade alone is estimated to earn more than $1.2 billion a year. And when factoring in heroin, that number more than triples, according to some estimates.

This industry is so lucrative that a shadow economy and infrastructure have emerged across the region, according to a new report by The West African Commission on Drugs (check out the video, below, for highlights). Political instability and government corruption have made it easy for criminal networks to operate in the region. And governments’ focus on criminalization rather than prevention and access to treatment has contributed to overcrowded jails and widespread corruption. “Rather than stopping the harmful reach of drugs it has accelerated the spread of disease, fueled organized crime, and undermined democratic institutions,” says the report.

Pedro Pires, former President of Cabo Verde and member of the West African Commission on Drugs, says a call to action is needed: “We need to gather the required political will to go after the organized traffickers while reforming outdated laws and policies that no longer fit reality.”