At least 50 tonnes of cocaine from Andean countries pass through West Africa every year, heading mostly to the streets of France, Spain and the United Kingdom, where they are worth some $2 billion.
“This is probably the tip of the cocaine iceberg,” said the Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Antonio Maria Costa, at a high-level conference in the Cape Verde capital, Praia.
Cocaine seizures have doubled every year for the past three years, with the 2007 total amounting to 6,458 kilogrammes, and major seizures this year include a 600 kilogramme cocaine bust at the airport in Freetown, Sierra Leone, this summer, according to a report launched by UNODC at the Praia meeting.
This iceberg has already caused more damage than the one that felled the Titanic, and it will take more than global warming to eliminate it. According to Mr. Costa, the cocaine problem is not only endangering West Africa’s youth and stunting its economy, it is also “a threat to public health and security” overall. And unlike an iceberg, this is a fully globalized issue, and countries from the Andes to Africa to Europe all have an interest in curtailing the drug traffic.
(Image from flickr user Zaptel under a Creative Commons license.)