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This report examines the characteristics of the heroin trade off the East African coast and highlights the criminal governance systems that facilitate drug trafficking along these routes.

In recent years, the volume of heroin shipped from Afghanistan along a network of maritime routes in East and southern Africa appears to have increased considerably. Most of this heroin is destined for Western markets, but there is a spin-off trade for local consumption. An integrated regional criminal market has developed, both shaping and shaped by political developments in the region. Africa is now experiencing the sharpest increase in heroin use worldwide and a spectrum of criminal networks and political elites in East and southern Africa are substantially enmeshed in the trade. This report focuses on the characteristics of the heroin trade in the region and how it has become embedded in the societies along this route. It also highlights the features of the criminal governance systems that facilitate drug trafficking along this coastal route.

Photo © rohane/Adobe Stock

The heroin coast

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Simone Haysom

Simone Haysom is a Senior Analyst with the Global Initiative with expertise in policing and organised crime, urban change, displacement, and humanitarian crises. Between 2010 and 2017, she worked for the Overseas Development Institute in London, most recently as a Research Associate. Her research has been published in academic journals and policy forums, and she has presented her work to the UN and other multilateral bodies, universities in the UK and South Africa, and non-governmental organisations including Medecines Sans Frontiers and the International Rescue Committee. She specialises in qualitative fieldwork in challenging environments.

Recent major work projects include in-depth research into how criminal networks trafficking heroin and wildlife are socially, economically and politically embedded in the coastal countries of East and Southern African for the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), and the European Union under the ENACT project. In 2018, she will be leading the GI’s work on the online trade in illegal wildlife products. 

Currently based in Oxford, Simone is a Visiting Academic at the School of African Studies at the University of Oxford. She is completing a non-fiction book about vigilante violence, a Commission of Inquiry into Policing and an activist accused of murder, scheduled for publication by Jonathan Ball in August 2018.

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Peter Gastrow

Peter Gastrow studied economics and law in South Africa and worked in the office of the Attorney General before establishing his own legal practice as an advocate of the Supreme Court. He was a member of the South African parliament, served on the National Peace Committee, and chaired the transitional government structure responsible for providing safety and stability during the first democratic elections in South Africa in 1994. After the 1994 elections, he became special adviser to the Minister for Safety and Security to assist with the transformation of South Africa’s police agencies. Between 1998 and 2009 he was the Cape Town director of the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), an independent policy research institute. During 1999 and 2000 he served on the South African delegation at the two-year negotiation process in Vienna that led to the adoption of the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. In 2009 he joined the International Peace Institute (IPI) in New York as a Senior Fellow and Director of Programs, focusing on transnational organized crime. He has served on a number of UN Expert Groups, on the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Organized Crime, and was appointed by the Kenyan government as vice chairman of their National Task Force on Police Reform. While based in New York he was involved in establishing the ‘Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime’, which has become an independent initiative aimed at reshaping thinking, strategies and responses to international organized crime. He is based in Cape Town and has published widely on issues relating to organized crime, peace and conflict, transition, governance, and policing.

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Mark Shaw

Mark is the Director of the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime.

He is also a Senior Associate of the LSE International Drug Policy Unit, (LSE US Centre), and an Adjunct Professor at the University of Cape Town, Department of Criminology, where he previously held the National Research Foundation Professor of Justice and Security.

Mark worked for ten years at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), including as Inter-regional Advisor, Chief of the Criminal Justice Reform Unit and with the Global Programme against Transnational Organised Crime, where he lead projects and provided technical assistance to national governments, bilateral donors and international organisations in Libya, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, West Africa, the Sahel and Southern Africa, on security sector and criminal justice reform, and countering transnational threats.

A South African national, before joining the UN, Mark held a number of positions in government and civil society where he worked on issues of public safety and urban violence in the post-apartheid transition.  He holds a PhD from the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg and has published widely on organised crime, security and justice reform issues.


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