Terrorists and criminals thrive in a climate of sustained grievances. It is no coincidence that the worst forms of violence in some parts of Africa today originate in the most socioeconomically deprived parts of communities in Africa where illiteracy rate, unemployment and poverty are the highest.
A flurry of criminal groups and armed militant gangs often consisting of unemployed youth have engaged in kidnappings, extortion, car bombings, and other forms of human induced violence attacks against governments and national critical infrastructures. The upsurge of such occurrences could potentially subvert the status quo in many Africa countries.
Over the past decades, there have been ample news reports and scholarly analyses of these security challenges as well as the links between them and the many grievances described in many forums. Scholars have also highlighted various enablers of insecurity throughout some parts of Africa including porous borders and the widespread availability and infiltration of small arms and light weapons into Africa.
An understanding of these and other complex dimensions of the security environment is necessary for placing any analysis of the threats and possible mitigation. According to the South Africa based Institute for Security Studies, Transnational Criminality in West Africa is generally thought to consist of drugs, smuggling of various items including counterfeits trades, human trafficking, maritime piracy in the Golf of Guinea, money laundering and currency counterfeiting has increased dramatically over the past decades and by some accounts, 60% of non U.S bound cocaine now goes through West Africa.
Due to increase hardship, some criminal elements are also engaged in various online fraud schemes and oil bunkering in some part of West Africa to sponsor a number of transnational organized crimes. Other criminal enterprises in Africa which include the smuggling of prohibited commodities, illegal logging and fishing, dumping of toxic waste, oil theft, and diversion of Humanitarian Aid is on the increase. A recent report suggests that the annual value of the trade in counterfeits and low quality anti-material drugs stands at $486 million while cigarette smuggling from the Gulf of Guinea to North Africa and Europe was estimated to net approximately $7999 million per year.
In short, the security implications for the wide ranging activities of organized crime network are fairly obvious. A shadow economy empowers the criminals and undermines the legitimate economy as well as the authorities of the state. The undercurrent drug trade and counterfeiting is intensifying corruption, predatory behavior of political elites, political instability , and a basic weakening of law enforcement and rule of law.
Transnational crimes are sometimes viewed locally as powerful and effective at getting things done and as having significant resources. This translates for many into a belief that organized crime networks have leadership in government and they take care of their own and those who assist them to continue to remain in power. A belief that in turn helps the network grow stronger and attract new recruits and secure local support for their illicit activities.