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Global Organized Crime Index

Observatory of Illicit Economies in Eastern and Southern Africa


Summary highlights

  1. A new pricing survey into Tanzania’s heroin market shows that heroin use has spread far inland from the coastal ‘southern route’, and the quality of heroin for sale reveals surprising inland supply routes.

    The so-called southern route for Afghan heroin trafficking is understood as having generated a substance abuse crisis along the East African coast. Results from a new, innovative regional drug-pricing survey, however, are shifting our understanding of domestic heroin markets and routes. Initial results from surveys of heroin markets in Tanzania suggest widespread nation- wide supply routes, while trends in quality of supply and type of retail packaging suggest several overlapping land routes. These results indicate a domestic heroin market that has few barriers to entry for aspiring traffickers and dealers.

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  2. Taxi assassinations are on the rise in South Africa, as rivalries between minibus taxi associations fuel violence.

    South Africa’s minibus taxi industry has a long association with targeted killings. Analysis from the Global Initiative’s Assassination Witness programme shows that taxi-related hits have reached unprecedented levels since 2016 and are the most common type of criminal assassination. In Gauteng, inter-agency rivalry and access to firearms have sparked a deadly trend that authorities are struggling to contain.

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  3. In Mozambique, the assassination of an election observer has thrown into relief how assassinations are deployed to silence dissent and reform.

    The murder of Anastácio Matavel, an activist and NGO leader heading election observations in Mozambique’s Gaza province, has shaken civil society and international observers. Yet Matavel’s murder is just the latest in a pattern of similar killings that have intensified in recent years; the targets are often journalists, academics, activists and politicians.

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  4. Kenya’s ill-regulated mass transit industry provides a convenient way of ‘cleaning’ dirty money – and it appears various corrupt interests would like to keep it that way.

    A recent narcotics case in Nairobi has exposed the links between Kenya’s mass transit sector and narcotics trafficking. Many have long suspected that the country’s minibus transport (‘matatu’) industry is an avenue for money laundering. We analyze the channels through which illicit funds are moved in the matatu industry, and how this industry is vulnerable to exploitation by a various groups, including the police, political figures and gangs.

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About this issue

The November 2019 Risk Bulletin of Illicit Economies in Eastern and Southern Africa presents four reports from the region, which, taken together, show how money laundering and drugs markets can infiltrate legitimate industries (in this case, taxi industries in Kenya and South Africa); demonstrate the corrosive effects of assassinations and targeted violence; and track new trends in regional drug markets.

In Tanzania, results from a new drug price survey show how heroin markets now extend from the coastal areas where they first took root. Across the region, drug profits are one of many illicit flows that criminal entrepreneurs seek to launder through the grey economy, like the private mass transit industry that has arisen in the region’s towns. Though Johannesburg and Nairobi are almost 4 000 kilometres apart, two reports in this issue show that there are striking parallels in how a vital service – urban commuter transport – has become deeply enmeshed in money laundering, extortion and, in the South African case especially, violent competition. The history of how these transport systems have developed shapes these criminal dynamics. Both cases raise challenging questions about how the state can regulate the sector to rein in criminal practices that put drivers, commuters and the economies of both cities at risk – especially as state actors themselves play a role in protecting criminal elements in these industries.

Our story from Mozambique sheds light on the recent tragic assassination of an election observer and exposes a facet of assassinations that contrasts with their role in the South African taxi industry, namely how targeted killing is deployed to suppress political opposition and silence civil society.