This special issue of the Risk Bulletin aims to cast light on how illicit drugs markets are woven into the political landscape of the Indian Ocean islands.

The GI-TOC has been conducting research on the political economy of drug trafficking across the islands since April 2020, which forms the basis of a forthcoming research paper titled ‘Changing tides: The evolving illicit drug trade in the western Indian Ocean’.

1. Bucking the trend: The impact of COVID-19 on drugs markets in the islands of the western Indian Ocean.
Restrictions to limit the spread of COVID-19 –lockdowns, curfews and states of emergency –have had a significant impact on illicit markets. However, monitoring of drug flows through the Indian Ocean region suggests that the drugs market has been fairly resilient to the impact of the pandemic

2. As decriminalization of cannabis production gathers pace in East and southern Africa, Madagascar’s large-scale cannabis market remains a criminal enterprise.

Madagascar is the most significant producer of cannabis in the Indian Ocean island region. Tonnes of cannabis are grown every year in the remote northern highlands of the Analabe region, providing a significant source of income to some in local communities who are cannabis growers and transporters.

3. The new administration in the Seychelles fought the election on corruption issues. Are they addressing drug-related corruption?

The Seychelles’ presidential election in October 2020 was described as a ‘political earthquake’. The campaign by the successful opposition candidate, Wavel Ramkalawan, had pledged to tackle corruption and counter drug trafficking, major issues in the Seychelles, the country with the highest level of heroin use in the world.

4. Parc Coson: What dynamics in the drug-dealing capital of Mauritius tell us about networks, protection structures and the challenges to responses.

The Mauritian drugs market appears unaffected by COVID-19 containment measures such as lockdowns and border closures. On 10 March 2021, Mauritius entered its second lockdown to counter the spread of the virus and all non-essential businesses closed. Yet in Parc Coson, a slum in the Roche Bois suburb of Port Louis and Mauritius’ drug-selling capital, it was business as usual.

5. The case of Wandile Bozwana: A killing that epitomizes the role of assassinations in South Africa today.

The final story in this issue looks at what the assassination of South African businessman Wandile Bozwana means for the state of politics, crime and justice in South Africa today. This story is the focus of a new podcast series from GI-TOC in partnership with News24 that will dive deep into Bozwana’s death, a killing involving top politicians, taxi bosses, assassins and flamingoes.

The stories in the Risk Bulletin are drawn from GI-TOC’s network of analysts and researchers, who form the basis of our Civil Society Observatory of Illicit Economies in Eastern and Southern Africawhich has hubs in Nairobi and Cape Town.

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