Illicit arms flows are the central focus of two stories in this issue of the Risk Bulletin. Our analysis investigates arms flows to Somalia, and weapons flows to the al-Shabaab insurgents in northern Mozambique. Looking beyond illicit arms flows, our analysis looks into how South Africa’s illegal abalone trade has a long history with gangsterism. Finally, we analyse Africa’s Eastern and Southern regional scores, drawing on the data of the ENACT Organised Crime Index for Africa 2021.

1. Investigating potential sources of arms flows to al-Shabaab in northern Mozambique.

Since conflict broke out in Cabo Delgado in 2017, the weaponry used by the insurgents in northern Mozambique has become more sophisticated. Yet the source of these weapons has not been definitively determined.

2. The maritime interdiction of over a thousand assault rifles en route to Yemen is the latest iteration of Iranian state-sponsored arms smuggling.

Our research team documented weapons at various locations in Somalia, which appear to have been sourced from shipments of weapons destined originally for Yemen, demonstrating how one conflict can have a destabilizing effect on other conflicts and a wider region.

3. A violent environmental market: the heavy cost of South Africa’s abalone trade.

A new GI-TOC study into the structure of the abalone market has found that while top-level traders maintain control of export and distribution to Asian markets, violent competition proliferates among local criminal networks involved in
the trade in South Africa.

4. What does the year ahead hold for organized crime in eastern and southern Africa?

Organized crime is a notoriously difficult phenomenon to quantify. The ENACT Organized Crime Index is the first tool of its kind designed to assess levels of organized crime and states’ resilience to criminal activity. The scores show an overall increase in organized crime in eastern and southern Africa since 2019. States’ resilience to the harms of organized crime increased in East Africa but decreased in southern Africa.


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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