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Cartel Continent

How Narcotics are Flooding Africa

A heroin addict smokes heroin in Lamu November 21, 2014.  Goran Tomasevic / Reuters

In April 2014, an Australian warship intercepted a sailboat roughly 30 nautical miles off the Kenyan coast. Aboard the ship was more than a ton of heroin, worth an estimated $260 million. The haul was approximately equal to the entire amount of heroin intercepted in East Africa’s waters between 1990 and 2009. Later that same year, Kenyan naval forces boarded a vessel from Pakistan carrying nearly 1,800 pounds of heroin. These incidents served as further confirmation of sub-Saharan Africa’s emergent role as a major narcotics hub.

Since the the early 2000s, crime syndicates have increasingly exploited the sub-Saharan region’s weak state institutions, relative poverty, and porous borders to funnel large quantities of cocaine and heroin into Europe and, to a lesser degree, North America. Narcotics trafficking has distorted the economies and politics of a number of African states while enriching violent nonstate actors, including groups linked to terrorism in the region. In addition

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