This issue of the Risk Bulletin of Illicit Economies in West Africa examines Russia’s presence in the gold-mining sector in West Africa; the recent resurgence of violence in Jos, Nigeria; the historical and contemporary context of the intertwining of the political and military elite, and the cocaine trade in Guinea-Bissau. Finally, we explore the findings of the 2021 Organized Crime Index which provide a statistical framework for understanding the strong but complex relationship between instability and illicit markets in West Africa.


  1. 1. Re-examining Russia’s presence in West Africa’s gold sector.

  2. Given their increasing presence in the gold sector across West Africa, it is likely that Russia will seek to use gold as a means of generating funds, moving money internationally and accessing foreign currencies.
  3. 2. Violence surges as criminal networks spread to new territories amid economic downturn in Jos, Nigeria.

  4. The central Nigerian city of Jos and its surrounding areas have been experiencing a resurgence of violence since 2021. A spike in criminal activity in Jos, partly attributable to increases in unemployment and economic hardship, is one key driver behind this explosion in violence, with fatal incidents linked to illicit markets, including cattle rustling, arms and drug trafficking, and kidnapping for ransom, doubling between 2020 and 2021.
  5. 3. A reported coup attempt brings to the fore how cocaine trafficking continues to shape Guinea-Bissau’s politics.

  6. In the wake of an attack on Guinea-Bissau’s governmental palace in February, labelled a coup attempt by the Bissau-Guinean government, we track the chequered history of the alleged mastermind – Bubo Na Tchuto – to explore the evolving role of the cocaine trade in Guinea-Bissau’s volatile politics.
  7. 4. The Organised Crime Index Africa 2021 underscores differing relationships between certain illicit markets and instability.

  8. The results of the Organised Crime Index Africa 2021 underscore the strong but complex relationship between instability and illicit markets in West Africa.

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