On 26 July, GIFP component ENACT organised a seminar focusing on Central Africa as a growing hotspot for organised crime. Bringing together partners from ENACT, the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, INTERPOL, and the Central African Police Chiefs Committee, the seminar explored organised crime drivers in Central Africa, the factors responsible for low resilience, and various case-studies examining the general criminal landscape of the region.
Colonel Koua, representative from the Central African Police Chiefs Committee, emphasised that Central Africa is the new region of predilection for organised crime. Abundant natural resources attract organised crime groups, which exploit a number of factors that allow them to generate important profits and accelerate insecurity. He stressed the need to not only discuss the key questions surrounding the region’s criminality, but to also think of solutions to the evolving criminal landscape.
The overarching criminal architecture of the region was then examined through the Africa Organised Crime Index 2021, available here. First launched in 2019, it is a multi-dimensional tool that evaluates criminality and resilience in African countries. The Africa Organised Crime Index is an example of how research can be practically applied to enhance effectiveness in responding to transnational criminal threats.
Overall, the index highlights that the majority of people in Africa live in countries with high criminality and low resilience. In 2021, Central Africa was the region that registered the greatest increase in criminality, especially environmental crimes such as poaching and illegal logging. Other widespread criminal activities include arms trafficking – due to the region’s neighbouring conflicts -, human trafficking, and trafficking of non-renewable goods -including the wide-spread illicit trade of coltan.
This illicit trade of coltan in the Democratic Republic of Congo is the focus of a recent ENACT report, which was presented during the seminar. Coltan is an essential mineral in modern electronics, and a large network of organised crime is involved in its production and supply chain. Mining sites in the DRC are often in remote areas, with a weak government presence, and illicit and licit activities and actors interact throughout the supply chain. Mr. Ojewale, author of the report, presented policy recommendations addressed at the government, civil society, the African Union, and the business sector.
Despite growing criminality, Central African countries are struggling to implement measures and legislation against organised crime, leading to low resilience.
Nonetheless, there are initiatives to increase this resilience. For instance, INTERPOL works in Central Africa to build law enforcement resilience through the adoption of pro-active strategies to fight against organised crime and improve the quality of investigations and information sharing. Ms. Richard-Bober emphasised the important role that criminal data analysis plays related to tackling organised crime in Central Africa. In this context, INTERPOL’s analytical strategy is built on three pillars: capacity building, publication of regional and continental analyses, and creation of analytical units in Africa.
Mr. Ayenengoye, head of such an analytical unit in Gabon, presented findings on maritime piracy in Gabon and in the Gulf of Guinea. It was reported that organised criminal groups engaging in maritime piracy are almost exclusively composed of former fishermen from the Niger Delta. Piracy nowadays mostly occurs in coastal areas, is purely-profit driven, with most of the targets being merchant ships, tankers, or fishing vessels, and pirates using small vessels.
Mr. Obambi, head of the INTERPOL analytical unit in Congo, focused on an emerging criminality in Congo – that of organised gangs of minors. Emerging from the criminal gangs ‘bébés noir’, these new gangs are composed of young girls, engaging in soliciting, prostitution, extortion, theft, and assault and battery. There are concerns that this type of criminality will spread to other Central African countries and cities.
Overall, tools like the Africa Organised Crime Index and criminal data analysis are of high value to policymakers. With a comprehensive view of criminal activity in the region and in the continent, evidence-based policies and measures can be developed. A key research and knowledge hub, bringing together different partners to share information and best-practices, ENACT contributes to the development of local and regional capacity to respond to organised crime.