The coastal states and islands of the Eastern and Southern African (ESA) region are being buffeted by illicit drug markets. While the dynamics of drug markets are shaped by a range of domestic political and socioeconomic factors, these states have been rendered vulnerable also by their proximity to major transnational drug trafficking routes that link illicit drug production origin points with regional and global marketplaces. Cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, cannabis and a wide array of synthetic substances flow through the region along various routes, exploiting vulnerabilities in port facilities and interdiction agencies, and connecting the substances, their markets and their organized criminal beneficiaries.

The purpose of this report is to provide an overview of maritime drug trafficking in ESA, with a particular emphasis on explaining the dynamics behind distribution. The paper summarizes the most common transnational maritime trafficking routes that affect ESA along with regional maritime drug trafficking trends, before outlining challenges to the disruption of these drug flows. It concludes with five recommendations.