Drug Policy in Africa

Project Summary

Traditionally African states have pursued a law enforcement dominated approach to drug policy.  In some regions this is now changing. An example of this change is in West Africa where the West African Commission on Drugs is working to mobilise public awareness and political commitment, develop local and regional capacities and ownership and produce evidence-based policy recommendations – focusing on the security and governance impacts of drug trafficking as well as prevention and treatment of drug dependency. One of the biggest problems in Africa however, is the lack of reliable data.  Moreover, the fact that there likely to be large-scale ‘hidden populations’ makes the task of developing appropriate policy challenging. The Drug Policy in Africa project page aims to provide a useful resource for those attempting to understand the complicated nature of drug policy on the continent.

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Technical Advisors

This section holds details of our technical advisors working in this issue area:

Virginia Comolli

Axel Klein

Professor Isidore Obot

Dr Markus Schultze-Kraft 

West Africa: A New Front in a Losing War?

West Africa: A New Front in a Losing WarWest Africa: A new front in a losing war? The emergence of significant drug trafficking routes in West Africa, particularly of cocaine from Latin America to European markets, has drawn a great deal of attention from global drug authorities, including the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the government of the United States, which sees West Africa as a setting for replicating drug-control interventions used in Latin America. West Africa undoubtedly has  significant drug-related problems that merit an energetic response, but this paper questions whether the hyped-up narrative that has been constructed of a lethal problem is meant to justify placement of military, surveillance and anit-terrorism hardware and software in the region at a time when Latin American countries are saying they have had enough of the US-led ‘war on drugs’ in their territories. The response to illicit drugs in West Africa should benefit from a careful reflection about what has and has not worked in other parts of the world.

View the West Africa: A New Front in a Losing War PDF

Click on the following link to view the  West Africa Policy Brief Press Release

European Policy on Khat: Drug Policy lessons not learned

European Policy 2With the UK likely soon to follow other European countries in introducing a ban on khat, a currently legal mild stimulant used by some African communities within this country, this policy brief examines how previous prohibitionist responses have failed to influence the market as intended.  As is discussed, not only have khat bans resulted in the criminalization and stigmatization of users that they are intended to help, they have also led to the creation of illicit black markets.   Moreover, criminalization of khat in key Northern European markets represents a major economic blow to rural producer communities in East Africa and the Middle East that are dependent for their livelihoods on the export of khat.  Since expert views on the topic have been sidelined during discussions and the Home Secretary determined to push forward with the ban, a novel constitutional mechanism has been used to articulate concern at the pending criminalisation of khat. In the House of Lords, a Motion of Regret will be read in the first week of May.  It will echo the position of the World Health Organization and other expert bodies that the risk of individual heath and social harms are too small to justify criminalising the substance. 

View the  European Policy on Khat: Drug Policy lessons not learned PDF


Click here to view the European Policy on Khat press release  Khat Ban Press Release

When Agendas Collide: Combating Drugs and Organised Crime in West Africa

When agendas collide: Combating drugs and organised crime in West Africa

A new Policy Brief from GDPO analyses the confluence of the European Union’s development policies and external security initiatives in West Africa.  Development objectives have taken a backseat to law enforcement, and many programmes suffer from a lack of distinction between fighting multiple forms of organised crime and combating drug trafficking.  To rectify the situation, law enforcement agencies cooperating with West African partners should draw on the experience of the development sector.  The European Commission should improve oversight and undertake a broader contextual analysis of drug markets and criminal activities in beneficiary countries to ensure that projects designed to promote development, good governance and the rule of law are sensitive to the impact and potentially counterproductive effect on organised crime and the drug trade in different West African theatres.

Click here to view more  When agendas collide: Combating drugs and organised crime in West Africa

Virginia Comolli on the drugs and terror nexus