In parts of Africa, there is a reformulation of politics and crime into networks that transcend the state/non-state boundary in ways that are not standard concepts of organized crime. The blanket term of organized crime can distract from this distinct problem that arises in a particular form based on the histories of individual countries. In diverse countries like Libya, Guinea-Bissau, and Zimbabwe, the needs of both legitimate and illegitimate business people have led a natural market for protection to emerge. When this leads to extensive private arrangements with public officials, it can amount to a new mode of governance. Africa becomes connected to international markets and institutions in a fashion where the distinctions between licit and illicit economic activity become difficult to detect.
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is home to a major part of Congo Basin rainforest region. The DRC’s government logging legal and regulatory framework are opaque, ineffective and corrupt. This creates a logging industry that is so convoluted it is unclear which activities are legal or illegal. Timber-importing countries should launch investigations into logging practices to confirm legality of ongoing operations, while the DRC should implement greater oversight over the companies operating in the country.
The illicit ivory trade in Africa is an extremely profitable criminal industry. It also degrades ecosystems, undermines the rule of law, and catalyzes corruption in some of Africa’s most fragile states. To tackle this threat, better data and analysis is needed on the trafficking networks and supply chains. Actionable intelligence on criminal organizations and networks will assist African policymakers to disrupt supply chains and combat the illicit ivory trade.
Criminal organizations in Africa have become ever more intertwined with governmental and political institutions. This proliferation has been possible because of globalization and technological advancements, not only embedding organized crime further into domestic state structures and communities, but also assisting criminal groups to gain global reach. Systematic sub-region analyses are needed to better understand this evolving phenomenon, allowing African leaders to create a counter-organized crime framework.
Liberia and Sierra Leone are both fragile, post-conflict states that are vulnerable to criminal activity. Although a lack of effective regulation and law enforcement exacerbates the challenge in these two countries, it is the complicity and involvement of government officials that allows organized criminal networks to proliferate. Broad government reforms combined with development initiatives need to be implemented to dismantle state sponsored corruption and crime.
Kidnapping expatriates of wealthy countries for ransom has been a growth industry in Africa since 2008. Each payment incentivizes future kidnappings, and the commission taken by negotiators contributes to pushing ransoms increasingly higher. Perpetrators include terrorists, organized crime syndicates, and collaborations of the two. Countries whose citizens are being kidnapped have struggled to balance immediate and long-term priorities while weighing the appropriate response.
Surging demand for ivory and rhino horn, mainly in Asia, has put wild African elephants and rhinoceroses on the path to extinction. More than an environmental tragedy, however, wildlife poaching and trafficking has exacerbated other security threats and led to the co-option of certain African security units. African states need to develop a broad range of law enforcement capabilities to tackle what is effectively a transnational organized crime challenge. Asian and other international partners, meanwhile, must take action to reduce runaway demand for wildlife products.
Africa is witnessing an exponential rise in the number of people illegally migrating to Europe. This trend has become a highly lucrative smuggling and trafficking industry for criminal groups. Thus far, countermeasures taken by European states have only resulted in shifting migration routes. To limit the flow of illegal migrants a comprehensive regional policy involving Europe and Africa is needed to address the root causes of mass migration.
Although organized crime is widely recognized as a serious security threat in Africa, data, intelligence, and scholarship on crime in the region remains insufficient. There are few primary sources and the majority of analytical work on crime has been conducted by Western scholars based on perceived threats to the United States or Europe. To effectively confront organized crime, African states must build internal capacity by increasing African-based analysis on how crime affects local populations as a means to inform policy.
Fragility in the Sahel-Sahara region is driven in part by worsening organized crime. Collusion between smugglers of cigarettes, drugs, and weapons and state officials has eroded state authority and created lucrative funding channels for Islamist terrorists, ethnically-aligned militias, and criminal groups in the Sahel-Sahara region. To reverse this worsening instability, governments and international partners should aim to break up alliances between militias and other local criminal networks that lack strong ideological or principled bonds. Meanwhile, improved opportunities for genuine political participation for marginalized groups can further diminish support for organized crime.
For many African states, powerful transnational criminal networks constitute a direct threat to the state itself, not only through open confrontation but also by penetrating state institutions through corruption and subverting them from within. With a sharp rise in narcotics and illicit trafficking, countries risk becoming criminalized or captured states. Advanced investigative law enforcement units are needed to stem transnational crime and oversight of government agencies and regulations should be made more rigorous.
Brazilian urban criminal groups are large and highly organized with sophisticated command-and-control. In several neglected urban slums they now overshadow the state’s presence and assume de facto authority over both legal and illegal activities. Brazil’s experiences offer useful lessons as urbanization, crime, and illicit trafficking increasingly shape Africa’s security threats.
An in-depth analysis of the history, structure, and geography of organized crime in South Africa. While cognizant of the tremendous strides the South African government has made from the apartheid days when organized crime formed a key role in many industries, the article emphasizes the continued attraction of South Africa as an attractive destination for organized crime.
The author provides an overview on the current situation in West Africa with regard to drug trafficking, organized crime (human trafficking, diamond trade and its link with terrorism financing) and terrorism. Discusses the symptoms and effects of drugs, organized crime, and terrorism in West Africa with emphasis porous borders. The article uses statistics to illustrate threats to security in West Africa and beyond.
This paper explores the limitations of international legal regimes in combating illicit trade networks and suggests some improvements aimed at increasing their effectiveness at reducing conflict in the region. Focuses on the case of the ‘conflict network’ phenomenon in the Congo War.
Original, thought-provoking research by the director of the Kofi Annan Peacekeeping Training Centre in Accra. The author takes an in-depth look at three types of organized crime: computer crime, drug trafficking, and weapons trafficking and presents the initial results of an empirically based KAIPTC study on these three areas in Ghana. It concludes with an engaging, well-written conclusion about how such activities potentially undermine public institutions like the police, customs, and judiciary in Ghana. Finally, it places these types of organized crime in the context of the cultural norms of a Ghanaian society that for the most part has accepted these activities due to the social welfare roles played by those involved in such crimes.
Security Topics: Combating Organized Crime