Friday, March 01, 2013

The maturing global narcotics business in Africa

The latest United Nations Office of Drug Control report contains grim news about how the global prohibition regime is creating new opportunities for deviant entrepreneurs (PDF) in Africa.

The drug business in Africa, which used to be controlled by South Americans and was mainly about smuggling toot to Europe, is undergoing a strategic metamorphosis.
  • First, the product strategy is changing: West Africa is becoming a producer-for-export of horse and tina, while continuing to run Peruvian flake to Europe. Domestically produced hash is also a growing export.
  • Second, the supply chain strategy is changing: Africa is now exporting to Asia (the supply chain used to run in reverse, with meth being brought in from Asia in exchange for wildlife and illicit minerals). Domestic consumption of harder stuff is growing. (I expect a crack/meth epidemic in Lagos in a couple of years.) Tactically, traffickers are also breaking shipments into smaller batches and using sea as much as air links.
  • Third, the personnel strategy is changing: West African (mainly Nigerian) gangs, instead of acting as essentially hired help, are taking over the management of business from Chinese and Latin Americans (aping the pattern whereby the Mexicans took over the North American cocaine supply chains from the Colombians).
As Charlie Sheen would say: #winning.