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News article | 9 March 2021 | Service for Foreign Policy Instruments

EU support in research on transnational organised crime in Africa in the context of COVID-19

During the past two decades, transnational organised crime activities have increased worldwide. Surpassing borders, organised crime threatens governance, peace and development. The current COVID-19 pandemic and enhanced border controls have contributed to a curve in drug trafficking, human smuggling or illicit arms trade in early 2020. However, a recent EU-funded study focusing on Africa, shows that, as of the second half of 2020, criminal markets have re-bounded.

The research findings are based on the Organised Crime Index, which provides a multi-dimensional measurement of organised crime and its impact across the African continent. It ranks African countries according to the presence of organised crime actors in the country, the country’s vulnerability to organised crime, as well as its capacity to combat the phenomenon.

First published in 2019, the Index is part of the EU-funded project ENACT, which aims at Enhancing Africa’s capacity to respond more effectively to transnational organised crime. ENACT works to mitigate the impact of transnational organised crime in Africa on development, governance, security and the rule of law. Some forms of organised crime are linked with conflict and violent extremism in Africa.

The initial findings of the 2021 Organised Crime Index were presented during a webinar organised in the context of the ENACT project. It turns out that 37 of the 54 African countries included in the study have experienced a deterioration in their criminality score, with 15 countries improving their score, and two registering no changes. These findings suggest that organised crime had a moderate to significant growth across the continent, most notably when it comes to drug trafficking (particularly cocaine), as well as arms trafficking.

These persistent levels of transnational organised crime show that organised crime groups have adapted their modus operandi to the new COVID-19 realities, finding new routes for illicit trafficking and making more use of cargo shipments. Also, experts have seen a surge in illicit trade with fake COVID-19 cures and vaccines or falsified medicines.

The Index provides thus evidence-based analysis of transnational organised crime in Africa, which helps informing policy-makers and enhances cooperation at the regional and continental level. This is one of the key stands of the ENACT project.

Additionally, ENACT builds skills and capacity among key African stakeholders to better respond to transnational organised crime and mitigate its impact. Four analytical units within the national police services of Niger, Malawi, Congo and Uganda were established as a result. The project has also supported AFRIPOL in the creation of its central analytical unit.

The EU ENACT project is implemented by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) in South Africa, Interpol and the Global Initiative against Transnational Organised Crime (GI-TOC).

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EU-funded project ENACT

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