By Kunle Adedeji
Over the next three years, the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) and its partners will be working across Africa to better understand transnational organised crime, and how to deal with it. In November 2015, the European Union (EU) Commission awarded the ISS, UN Office on Drugs and Crime and INTERPOL a grant to enhance African capacity to respond more effectively to transnational organised crime.
Using evidence-based analysis of its scale and impact on security, governance and development, the project will improve understanding of transnational organised crime in Africa. Its key contribution will be strengthening the ability of government and civil society to counter the problem and mitigate its effects.
Transnational organised crime includes the trafficking and sale of illicit commodities such as drugs, weapons, human beings, wildlife products, oil, etc. as well as emerging threats like cybercrime. Operations are run by fluid networks of local and international individuals and groups, working in both legitimate and illegitimate spaces, and who may profit at vastly different scales.
‘Transnational organised crime is globally recognised as a critical threat to security, development and governance’, says Cheryl Frank, head of the Transnational Threats and International Crime division at the ISS. ‘In Africa, the impact is especially crippling’.
Policy must be guided by an evidence-based analysis of the scale and impact of organised crime
The link between organised crime and political power can become so entrenched that states may themselves serve the narrow interests of a criminal and political elite. Key institutions, including those responsible for upholding the law, can become weak or immobilised.
Dealing with the problem is a priority for the Joint Africa-EU Strategy – the EU’s partnership with Africa to strengthen economic cooperation and promote sustainable development. At the 4th Africa-EU Summit in April 2014, leaders from both continents reaffirmed their commitment to fight international threats to peace and stability, including transnational organised crime.
‘Organised crime is undeniably linked to other threats to continental peace and stability, including terrorism and conflict’, says Frank. The local contexts bring further challenges, not least when institutional capacity is limited and more immediate problems such as poverty and unemployment may dominate. ‘In fact, organised crime may offer short-term solutions to these problems where the state and legitimate business are unable to do so.’
Given its complex nature, African and international actors need evidence-based information about transnational organised crime in order to develop policies that can work. Effective responses will depend not only on governments but also on the active involvement of African citizens, the media, organised civil society and business.
‘Each of our organisations will contribute their unique capacity, networks and continental reach to ensure that the project achieves its objectives’, says Frank. Work will be carried out from several bases across the continent namely Pretoria, Addis Ababa, Nairobi, Dakar, Abidjan, Yaoundé and Harare.