UN: East Africa Becoming World's Heroin Hub

By Will Godfrey 08/01/11

Traffickers move more heroin through Africa, leaving the continent to count the cost.

Traffickers' paradise Photo via

Increasing seizures and arrests indicate that East Africa is growing in importance as a heroin trafficking hub, says a report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Ports in countries such as Kenya, Tanzania, Djibouti and Eritrea are accessible from Asia and large shipments of Afghan-produced heroin are arriving from Pakistan. Major beneficiaries include the Taliban. Kenya and Tanzania have both made 100 kilo-plus single seizures of heroin this year. Much of the cargo is moved on to the US and Europe by West African networks. As "traditional" routes through Asia and the Middle East become more hazardous, Africa suits traffickers because of poorly-policed ports and airports, low transport costs and corruption. Cannabis and methaqualone—a sedative particularly popular in South Africa—are also channeled through East Africa. As a large chunk of the global opiate market—valued at $68 billion in 2009—moves through the continent, it leaves a trail of addicts in places ill-equipped to cope, as well as causing political instability.

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Will Godfrey is the former editor-in-chief of TheFix. He was also the founding editor-in-chief of Substance.com, and previously co-founded a magazine for prisoners in London. His work has appeared in Salon, Pacific Standard, AlterNet and The Nation among others. He is currently the Executive Director at FILTER. You can find Will on Linkedin and Twitter.