The heroin coast: A political economy along the eastern African seaboard


In recent years, the volume of heroin shipped from Afghanistan along a network of maritime routes in East and southern Africa appears to have increased considerably. Most of this heroin is destined for Western markets, but there is a spin-off trade for local consumption. An integrated regional criminal market has developed, both shaping and shaped by political developments in the region. Africa is now experiencing the sharpest increase in heroin use worldwide and a spectrum of criminal networks and political elites in East and southern Africa are substantially enmeshed in the trade. This report focuses on the characteristics of the heroin trade in the region and how it has become embedded in the societies along this route. It also highlights the features of the criminal governance systems that facilitate drug trafficking along this coastal route.

About the authors

Mark Shaw is the director of the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime (GI TOC) and a senior visiting fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science’s International Drug Policy Project. He was until recently the National Research Foundation Professor of Justice and Security at the University of Cape Town’s Centre of Criminology, where he is now an adjunct professor.

Simone Haysom is a Senior Analyst at GI TOC and a visiting academic at the Department of African Studies at the University of Oxford. She has previously worked as researcher at the Overseas Development Institute in London, and spent several years working as a consultant on issues to do with forced displacement, urban development, organised crime and policing.

Peter Gastrow is a senior adviser at GI TOC. He lives in Cape Town and has practiced as an advocate of the Supreme Court, served as a parliamentarian, and as adviser to the South African minister of police. Organised crime has been his main research focus since he served as Cape Town director of the Institute for Security Studies and as a senior fellow at the International Peace Institute in New York.

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