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The link between terrorism in Africa and the fake drugs trade

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Terrorist groups operating in Africa are tapping into a rich vein, taking advantage of the trafficking in fake medicines on the continent as one of their main funders.

“We now know that terrorism is a serious threat to Africa’s security. Drug trafficking contributes to the financing of transnational organized crime, including terrorism,” the Senegalese President Macky Sall told a summit on fake drugs held in the Togolese capital Lome on 17 and 18 January 2020.

Sall and his Togolese and Ugandan counterparts, as well as the Ministers of Health from Niger, Congo and Ghana signed a political declaration committing their countries to the fight against drug trafficking promoted by the Brazzaville Foundation.

Over time, Africa has become one of the bastions of international terrorism.

From the Horn of Africa to the Sahel, many insurgent groups, the most prominent being Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab, Al-Mourabitoune and Ansar al-Sharia, are making weapons crackle, plunging nations into an unprecedented spiral of violence.

In order to multiply their strike forces tenfold, several of these groups have pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda or the Islamic State (ISIS), which are quick to provide funding.

But the killing of Osama Bin Laden and the dismantling of the vast, self-proclaimed Caliphate of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in Iraq and Syria dealt a serious blow to the fundraising effort, which was essential for hatching plans to carry out deadly attacks.

As a result, the jihadists swarming across Africa have set their sights on various forms of trafficking, particularly medicine.

“In the Sahel, although it is not fully documented, terrorism is largely financed by drug trafficking. Counterfeit medical products account for about sixty percent of the sources of terrorist financing,” said Jean-Louis Bruiguière, a French anti-terrorism judge.

As an illustration, he informed the members of the Steering Committee on drug trafficking set up by the Brazzaville Foundation, that “eighty percent of attacks or operations carried out on French soil or in Europe come from trafficking.”

During a visit to Burkina Faso on 28 November, 2017, French President Emmanuel Macron said that “sub-Saharan Africa is home to all the vulnerabilities that will encourage substandard or falsified medicines: weak governance of health systems, insufficient healthcare provision and a network of pharmacies in the country, the existence of a parallel market that is almost tolerated and the poverty of the population.”

He therefore urged African states to engage in a relentless fight against the trade in fake medicines.

“It is urgent because this international traffic, led by criminal organizations, is growing exponentially. From $75 billion in 2010, the turnover of the trafficking in falsified medical products is estimated today at $200 billion. The profits from this trafficking effort are higher than those from drugs or arms,” said Togolese leader Faure Gnassingbé.

According to Cécilia Attias, the President and Founder of the Cécilia Attias Foundation, the Lomé initiative “heralds the end of impunity for counterfeiters who have, for too long, profited from trafficking that is far too lucrative. This will seriously penalize the actions of criminal organisations that happily finance themselves from the misery of the population.”

According to this former First Lady of France, this observation requires “a firm reaction from the international community.”

And in order not to lend the initiative to terrorism, President Sall proposed to his peers on the continent “a synergy of efforts in surveillance, cross-border control, exchange of experience and harmonisation of legislation for more effective action with a global and lasting impact.”



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