Is Mozambique Set to Become Africa’s Next Hub for LatAm Cocaine?

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A recent report has highlighted the increasing role of the East African nation Mozambique in the international drug trade, adding weight to warnings that the influence of Latin American criminals in Africa is no longer limited to a handful of west coast countries.

The investigation, by Think Africa Press, explains how Mozambique’s porous borders, extensive coastline and patchy governance have made it an increasingly popular transshipment point for international drug traffickers.

Cocaine is typically smuggled into Mozambique by drug mules travelling by plane from Colombia and Brazil, while some also arrives by sea. Capture and seizure patterns at the airport of capital city Maputo indicate the majority of these mules are South African, Mozambican, Nigerian or Tanzanian nationals.

Much of the cocaine then continues on to South Africa, which the report labels as the major regional consumer market, or is flown out to Europe and East Asia. The local sale of cocaine to Mozambican citizens and tourists has also growingly become a by-product of the drug trade.

Some believe that efforts by authorities to thwart drug trafficking activities are compromised by corrupt security and government officials, and a lack of resources.

The other main drugs transited through Mozambique are heroin, mandrax (a sedative) and marijuana, which are mainly shipped over from South Asia.

InSight Crime Analysis

In recent years, Africa has emerged as a popular transshipment point for Latin American cocaine traffickers, who take advantage of corrupt and ineffective security controls and the continent’s proximity to the increasingly important European market.

The West African nation of Guinea-Bissau has become the most notorious African drug hub, as top level corruption has turned the country into a bona fide narco-state. However, there have been warning signs that the presence of trafficking is expanding, with a 2013 report by the African Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) highlighting how other countries in the region such as Mali, the Gambia, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya and Mozambique, also risk falling into the clutches of the global drug trade. 

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Criminal Migration

Mozambique’s location on Africa’s eastern coast makes it a less obvious option as a transit point for cocaine arriving from the Americas, particularly for drugs arriving via maritime routes. However, the information from the Think Africa Press report suggests traffickers are using different methods than those employed on the west coast, employing commercial flights and container ships rather than moving product themselves. In a report issued in late-2013, Americas police association Ameripol highlighted the use of the coast of East Africa by traffickers, as part of a route passing through the Suez Canal.

It is unclear whether the traffickers using Mozambique as a transit point are Latin American or African. While Latin American groups pioneered the use of the continent for trafficking, African organized crime groups — particularly Nigerians — are believed to be playing an increasing role in the cocaine trade.

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