New Report on Civil Society Observatory of Illicit Economies in Eastern and Southern Africa

The 12th issue of the Risk Bulletin of Illicit Economies in Eastern and Southern Africa, published by the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, marks one full year in which our Observatory of Illicit Economies has been closely monitoring trends in organized crime and illegal trade across the region.

The report focuses on four very different illegal markets, distinct in both the commodities and the geographies involved: from ‘zama zamas’ (illegal gold miners operating in South Africa), to violent and organized heists in Kenya’s coffee industry. It also documents the ongoing trend of cheetah trafficking via Somaliland, primarily to the Gulf States, and the emergence of Afghan-produced methamphetamine being trafficked along routes used for trafficking heroin.

Highlights include:

The fight against illegal gold mining in South Africa faces new (and old) challenges.
As gold prices soar in the post-pandemic world economy, there are concerns that illegal mining activity in South Africa may be rising sharply. Tackling such a surge may prove difficult, given the history of illegal mining in the country. Sources in the industry have described how they face a number of challenges, including deteriorating law-enforcement capacity, endemic corruption and community support for the illegal miners. In this context, illegal miners appear set to remain an influential part of the criminal landscape in South Africa.

Is Afghanistan a new source for methamphetamine in eastern and southern Africa?
Production of methamphetamine in Afghanistan has boomed in the past three years, thanks to a combination of poor opium harvests for heroin, meth producers moving out of Iran into Afghanistan following an Iranian crackdown, and the discovery of a new and cheaper way of producing key meth precursors. However, it is still largely unknown to which market these massive volumes of meth are destined. Recent seizures of heroin and methamphetamine, and information from GI-TOC research into meth markets in eastern and southern Africa, suggest that some of this new influx of Afghan meth is being trafficked into Africa.

Somaliland: East Africa’s largest conduit for cheetah trafficking to the Gulf.
A recent spate of cheetah seizures in Somaliland has shown that the illicit demand for these animals remains strong. Cheetahs are highly prized as exotic pets in the Gulf states, and in supplying this market, traffickers have heavily impacted local cheetah populations in Africa, a situation compounded by the fact that many animals die on route. Despite international and domestic prohibitions against the trade, cheetahs remain at high risk.

Kenya’s coffee industry is facing a resurgence in organized thefts.
Kenya’s world-famous coffee industry has, for the past decade, been targeted by armed gangs of thieves who carry out orchestrated, large-scale heists of the produce. A recent spate of thefts suggest the problem might be having a resurgence following a previous peak in 2011. Coffee farmers have reported how some thefts have turned violent, and farmers’ cooperatives have resorted to tightening security to protect their livelihoods. There are suggestions that the so-called ‘coffee cartels’ are protected by influential figures in politics, business and the police.

Full report can be downloaded at