12 Dec 2018

INTERPOL Overview of Serious and Organised Crime in East Africa 2018

Strategic action and stronger partnerships amongst law enforcement agencies throughout East Africa will improve the region’s response to organised crime.


Transnational organised crime in Eastern Africa poses a substantial threat to the safety and security of all member countries in the region, and poses a significant challenge to law enforcement agencies. As a result, INTERPOL, under the European Union–funded ENACT Project, has sought to catalogue and assess organised crime in the region in order to drive a more strategic law enforcement response.

International criminal organisations continue to target the region due to the significant illicit wealth generated by syndicates, stemming from criminal market opportunities that exploit various social and political issues found across Eastern Africa. State fragility, limited policing capacities, and corruption drive criminal elements, which operate everywhere and provide illicit goods and services even in the remotest areas of the region. Crime syndicates remain highly connected across borders and are active in a number of illicit markets, notably maritime piracy, organised violence and terrorism, financial crimes and fraud, environmental crimes, narcotics trafficking, theft and robberies, human trafficking and smuggling, and the counterfeiting of a range of goods, amongst others.

In addition, there are a number of enabling crimes such as the trade in small arms, light weapons, and explosives, along with cybercrime capabilities, which are enhancing organised criminality throughout the region. The trade in weapons and the use of cyber-tools drives all of the illicit markets profiled in this report in complex ways, and, as a result, organised crime in the region generates greater profits for all involved. Consequently, there are substantial illicit interregional financial flows and profits laundered throughout the Eastern Africa region, with large volumes of illicit wealth often heading offshore to Europe or Asia.

The threat from organised crime in Eastern Africa is substantial, yet there is sometimes limited capacity amongst law enforcement to manage this complex issue, especially on a transnational level, looking beyond national jurisdictions and borders. Organised crime is going underreported and undetected, despite various data sources indicating there are ongoing organised crime activities and dynamics present across the region. This concern needs strategic action, through stronger partnerships amongst law enforcement agencies throughout the region, enabled through a greater awareness of overall issue at a regional level.

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ENACT is implemented by the Institute for Security Studies in partnership with
INTERPOL and the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime.