The region, an established transit point for Latin American cocaine to big Western markets, has also become a drug processing site amid rising addiction rates, and drug-related violence will follow, they told a drug summit over the weekend.
“A flourishing illicit trade in the hands of organised crime is obviously a threat to the rule of law, governance and, as a result, human rights,” said Alexandre Schmidt, West African head for the U.N. Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
“But we must no longer hide the indirect consequences with regard to the increase in problems linked to drug abuse.” Some 20 tonnes of cocaine passed through West Africa in 2008, worth about $1 billion, the United Nations says.
Although concrete figures are hard to come by, experts said there was clear evidence of a rise in local use of cocaine and crack. Citing research in Cape Verde, the region’s initial drug hot-spot, Margarete Molnar, a health specialist at UNODC, said drug use was entrenched.
“This shows that being on the route of trafficking is a disaster,” she said. “(Law enforcement) may protect West Africa and Europe but I can tell you that in this region there are people who are hard drug users who need to be rehabilitated.”