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West Africa Combats Illicit Drug Trafficking


Barrels containing confiscated cocaine are displayed on a French military vessel in the port of Monrovia, Liberia. (file photo)

Despite the range of challenges facing them in dealing with the drug trade, West African countries have begun taking the threat seriously.

There have been growing signs of strengthening ties between West Africa and South America in the trafficking of illicit drugs.

West Africa is the closest point to drug growing and processing centers in South America, and its close proximity to southern Europe provides a natural gateway to European drug markets. Porous borders, inadequate law enforcement and corruption create a permissive environment for the drug trade. Language connections among Brazil, Portugal, Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau also contribute to the ease in which such trade may develop.

U.S. law enforcement officials estimate that in 2009, about one third of the cocaine destined for Europe passed through West Africa. According to the United Nations, Latin American cocaine is being stockpiled in some West African countries for future shipment to Europe.

Despite the range of challenges facing them in dealing with the drug trade, West African countries have begun taking the threat seriously and addressing it as a regional priority. Last year, for example, police in Liberia broke up and seized a shipment of cocaine valued at $100 million.

The United States is working to improve the drug interdiction and investigation capabilities of West African nations through a number of aid projects. We welcome fresh impetus from the international community as well to make Africa a priority for drug-control assistance, to promote and protect the stability and positive growth in countries in Africa.

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