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February 25, 2013

Methamphetamine 'Growing Concern' for West Africa

by Robbie Corey-Boulet

A new report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC) warns that the production of methamphetamine is a "growing concern" for West Africa.  The report, which addresses many forms of transnational crime in the region, also suggests that recent gains in the fight against cocaine trafficking may have been overstated.  

Much of the methamphetamine produced in West Africa is headed for East Asia, though South Africa is a major secondary market.  Two methamphetamine laboratories were detected in Nigeria in 2011 and 2012.

The report says that while the flow of methamphetamine out of West Africa is relatively new, the income it generates is “remarkably high.”

Pierre Lapaque, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime representative for West and Central Africa, says methamphetamine is attractive to West African drug producers because it is so easy to make.  

“It’s easy to prepare," he said. "You can do that in your kitchen, if you wish.  You go on the Internet, you get the recipe and you cook.  As long as you have the good ingredients you can cook it easily.”

West Africa has long been a notorious hub for cocaine trafficking. Because of its location and weak law enforcement institutions, the region is a convenient stopping point for cocaine produced in South America and intended for sale in Europe.

The trafficking has further weakened state institutions in some countries, and the U.N. report says "cocaine-related corruption has clearly undermined governance in places like Guinea Bissau."

The new report notes that the flow of cocaine in West Africa peaked in 2007 at 47 tons, but decreased to 18 tons by 2010 in response to efforts to combat maritime and air shipments.  However, the report also says that there is debate about whether the flow of cocaine has actually decreased, or whether “traffickers have simply found less detectable ways of moving the drug.”

Lapaque said that data has been limited since 2010, but that officials believe the trafficking of cocaine is now back up to between 30 and 35 tons.

“The problem is that the region is still facing the same problems - the problem of governance, the problem of rule of law, the problem of corruption," Lapaque said. "Things have improved, but they haven’t dramatically improved, so there is room for improvement.”  

He said it was important to target the traffickers rather than particular types of shipments.  He said this was because criminal networks are often involved in many different forms of illegal shipments - from drugs to arms to illegal migrants.  

"If for example you open a container here, you open one ton of cocaine," Lapaque said. "That’s brilliant - you have stopped one ton of cocaine. But if 20 tons are going through another channel and you haven’t dismantled the criminal network that was actually sending this one ton of cocaine, you are just digging in the sea. You finish the day exhausted, and at the end of the day you haven’t achieved anything."

The release of the report Monday was timed to coincide with a meeting of the Mediation and Security Council of the West African regional body ECOWAS. A new report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC) warns that the production of methamphetamine is a "growing concern" for West Africa.  The report, which addresses many forms of transnational crime in the region, also suggests that recent gains in the fight against cocaine trafficking may have been overstated.  

Much of the methamphetamine produced in West Africa is headed for East Asia, though South Africa is a major secondary market.  Two methamphetamine laboratories were detected in Nigeria in 2011 and 2012.

The report says that while the flow of methamphetamine out of West Africa is relatively new, the income it generates is “remarkably high.”

Pierre Lapaque, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime representative for West and Central Africa, says methamphetamine is attractive to West African drug producers because it is so easy to make.  

“It’s easy to prepare," he said. "You can do that in your kitchen, if you wish.  You go on the Internet, you get the recipe and you cook.  As long as you have the good ingredients you can cook it easily.”

West Africa has long been a notorious hub for cocaine trafficking.  Because of its location and weak law enforcement institutions, the region is a convenient stopping point for cocaine produced in South America and intended for sale in Europe.

The trafficking has further weakened state institutions in some countries, and the U.N. report says "cocaine-related corruption has clearly undermined governance in places like Guinea Bissau."

The new report notes that the flow of cocaine in West Africa peaked in 2007 at 47 tons, but decreased to 18 tons by 2010 in response to efforts to combat maritime and air shipments.  However, the report also says that there is debate about whether the flow of cocaine has actually decreased, or whether “traffickers have simply found less detectable ways of moving the drug.”

Lapaque said that data has been limited since 2010, but that officials believe the trafficking of cocaine is now back up to between 30 and 35 tons.

“The problem is that the region is still facing the same problems - the problem of governance, the problem of rule of law, the problem of corruption," Lapaque said. "Things have improved, but they haven’t dramatically improved, so there is room for improvement.”  

He said it was important to target the traffickers rather than particular types of shipments.  He said this was because criminal networks are often involved in many different forms of illegal shipments - from drugs to arms to illegal migrants.  

"If for example you open a container here, you open one ton of cocaine," Lapaque said. "That’s brilliant - you have stopped one ton of cocaine. But if 20 tons are going through another channel and you haven’t dismantled the criminal network that was actually sending this one ton of cocaine, you are just digging in the sea. You finish the day exhausted, and at the end of the day you haven’t achieved anything."

The release of the report Monday was timed to coincide with a meeting of the Mediation and Security Council of the West African regional body ECOWAS.