The cocaine coast
West Africa becoming drugs centre, UN says
Drugs smugglers are discovering the possibilities of West-Africa as a trafficking centre. Police are understaffed and ill-equipped to fight this new kind of crime; prosecutors and judges often lack sufficient evidence to act.
Moreover, "prosecutors and judges lack the evidence or the will to bring to justice powerful criminals with powerful friends", says UN drugs czar . He heads the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
Annually some 50 tonnes of cocaine are being smuggled from Latin America via West-African countries to Europe. The street value of these drugs is estimated at two billion dollars. Over the past three years, cocaine seizures have seen a sharp rise. In many cases, the drugs are transported by couriers on commercial flights into Africa.
Nigeria's Atlantic coastline: drugs trade danger zone
Cocaine seizures in West-Africa on the increase
2005: 1,323 kilograms
2006: 3,161 kilograms
2007: 6,458 kilograms
Most apprehended drugs couriers are from Guinea, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal
Out of hand
A conference in Praia, Cape Verde, is addressing the problem. Mr Costa is warning that the problem is getting out of hand, and there is little time to find a solution to prevent West-Africa's beaches turning into a 'cocaine coast'.
One of the measures that Mr Costa is proposing is help from the international community to protect West-African countries' shores and airspace from international drugs smugglers.
UNODC is already helping countries in Southern Africa to combat illicit drugs trafficking and its attendant problems through its regional office in Pretoria, South Africa. In East Africa too, particularly through the ports and airports of Djibouti, Eritrea, Kenya and Tanzania, drugs smuggling is rife. Like West Africa, the provenance of the substances is often Latin America.
UNODC notes that East Africa is a major transit centre for mandrax (methaqualone), a synthetic hard drug originating from India or China. Most of it ends up in South Africa.