Transnational organised crime in West Africa is a persistent threat. 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 especially because of the significant illicit wealth that can be generated, stemming from criminal market opportunities that exploit various social and political vulnerabilities, state fragility, limited policing capacities, and corruption.
International criminal organisations or networks operate everywhere in the region via key facilitators and bring together a significant array of crime syndicates that provide illicit goods and services everywhere. Crime syndicates remain highly connected across borders and are active in a number of illicit markets, notably drug trafficking, financial crimes, human trafficking, people smuggling, counterfeit goods, organized theft and robbery, environmental crimes, and maritime piracy. In addition, there are a number of enabling crimes such as cybercrime, and the trade in small arms and light weapons that are supporting organised criminality throughout the region, which overlap with all illicit markets noted in complex ways.
Organised crime in the region generates huge profits for all involved and there are substantial illicit interregional financial flows and illicit profits heading offshore, plus money laundering occurring on a global scale. The threat from organised crime in West Africa is substantial yet there is limited capacity amongst law enforcement to manage this complex issue. Organised crime is going underreported and undetected, but various data sources reveal the following major activities and dynamics of groups and networks active in the region, which need to be addressed strategically and through building greater partnerships amongst all law enforcement agencies in the region.
Photo © Jacqueline Cochrane / ISS