15 Feb 2024

Drug trafficking / Diffusion, diversion, displacement – but not disruption

This report explores the challenge of responding to synthetic drug markets through the lens of tramadol in West Africa.

Across Africa, the GI-TOC has documented the proliferation of synthetic drugs, the resulting transformation of drugs markets and the escalation of drug-related harm. The nature of synthetic drug markets – with their low barriers to entry and flexible supply chains – makes them attractive to criminal actors and difficult to respond to. The response in Africa is further hampered by a dearth of evidence regarding the scope and scale of the synthetic drug market. This report explores how synthetic drug markets respond to programming seeking to disrupt them. Tramadol is used as a lens through which to consider existing response frameworks to synthetic drugs in the ECOWAS region and more broadly.

About the authors

Lucia Bird Ruiz Benitez de Lugo is the director of the Observatory of Illicit Economies in West Africa at the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime (GI-TOC). Previously, she worked as legal and policy adviser to the Planning and Development Department of the Punjab government, Pakistan, and to the Ministry of Finance, Ghana.

Mouhamadou Kane is an analyst with the GI-TOC, specialising in dynamics relating to Senegal and Guinea. Prior to joining the GI-TOC, Mouhamadou worked as a researcher at the Centre des Hautes Etudes de Défense et de Security of the Presidency of the Republic of Senegal, and with the ENACT programme.

Jason Eligh is a senior expert at the GI-TOC. He is an illicit drug market and policy analyst who has researched, developed and led technical cooperation and assistance initiatives that address illicit drugs issues in African and Asian geographies.

Lyes Tagziria is a senior analyst at the GI-TOC. He has researched a wide range of illicit economies globally, currently focusses on West Africa, and was previously a senior member of the GI-TOC’s Organized Crime Index team.

Image: © GI-TOC

This publication was produced with the financial support of the European Union and the German Federal Foreign Office under the OCWAR-T project. Its contents are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union or the German Federal Foreign Office.

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