Jason Eligh Gowmatee Madhubala Madhub-Dassyne Ibrahim Kargbo Mouhamadou Kane Hanna Rozhkova Phoenix Mohawk Kellye Lucia Bird

Mapping synthetic drug markets in Africa: Enabling evidence-based responses

A Talk by Hanna Rozhkova , Gowmatee Madhubala Madhub-Dassyne , Jason Eligh , Phoenix Mohawk Kellye , Ibrahim Kargbo , Mouhamadou Kane and Lucia Bird

About this Talk

Simultaneous interpretation in both English and French will be provided/Une interprétation simultanée en anglais et en français sera disponible.

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Drawing on a range of public research, and ongoing monitoring by the GI-TOC, this roundtable will focus on the intricate dynamics of synthetic drug markets across the African continent, addressing their rapid expansion, devastating impacts, and the urgent need for comprehensive responses.

According to GI-TOC’s Africa Organized Crime Index 2023, the synthetic drug trade has been found to be one of the fastest-growing on the continent, and the non-medical use of tramadol is one of the most notable examples of the substance’s consumption in the region. The diversity of synthetics available greatly taxes law enforcement abilities to detect, identify and seize. Response is significantly hampered, in part, by a lack of evidence regarding the scope and scale of the synthetic drugs market across Africa, which is consistently under-estimated. It is a pivotal moment to take steps to plug this evidence gap, bringing granular data to stakeholders positioned to respond both within, and beyond, the continent.

To enhance your understanding of synthetic drug markets in Africa and enrich the event’s discussion, we invite you to explore the following reports ahead of the event: Global Synthetic Drug Markets: The Present and Future, The Challenge of Responding to Synthetic Drug Markets: Tramadol in West Africa, A Synthetic Age: The Evolution of Methamphetamine Markets in Eastern and Southern Africa, and Changing Tides: The Evolving Illicit Drug Trade in the Western Indian Ocean, which emphasises the role of synthetic cannabinoids. Insights will also be drawn from the Africa Organised Crime Index 2023 report, which underscores the exponential growth of synthetic drug markets in Africa.

Across Africa, GI-TOC has evidenced how synthetic drugs – ranging from methamphetamines to synthetic cannabinoids – have swiftly transformed drug markets upon entering a new territory. Synthetic cannabinoids arrived in the Indian Ocean Islands between 2011 and 2013. By 2015, they had drastically changed the illicit drug markets of Mauritius and Mayotte, and by 2018 that of the Comoros. By 2020, synthetic cannabinoids were the most consumed substance in these countries, barring cannabis, and spread to other markets of eastern and southern Africa, including Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

In West Africa, a drug known as ‘kush’ arrived in Sierra Leone around 2016, and has quickly become the highest priority drug threat in the country – while testing data is limited, ‘kush’ is believed to be a synthetic drug, potentially a synthetic cannabinoid. ’Kush’ has now penetrated retail markets in neighbouring Guinea and Liberia, together with The Gambia and Guinea-Bissau.

Beyond methamphetamines and synthetic cannabinoids, unpublished but ongoing community-based chemical analysis of drug market substances in southern and eastern Africa have revealed that contamination of staple drug market products (such as heroin, cocaine and ecstasy) by unrelated synthetic adulterants appears to be growing significantly.

As recognised by policymakers at the 67th Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs which took place in March 2024, synthetic drugs present a vast, quickly evolving, and poorly understood challenge globally, but particularly in regions with weak testing capacity – including many countries across the African continent. It is crucial that policymakers recognise the challenge, and are able to access additional evidence – through enhanced testing and research – to support responses. This workshop is one step in bringing fresh evidence to policymakers, and engender forward-looking debate.

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This event is organised in the framework of the Drugs and Development Hub, by the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime (GI-TOC), the Global Partnership on Drug Policies and Development (GPDPD), and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, implemented on behalf of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and under the political lead of the German Federal Government's Commissioner for Drug and Addiction Policy.

29 April 2024, 02:00 PM

02:00 PM - 04:00 PM

About The Speakers

Hanna Rozhkova

Hanna Rozhkova

Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), Advisor


Gowmatee Madhubala Madhub-Dassyne

Gowmatee Madhubala Madhub-Dassyne

Director of Forensic Science Laboratory, Mauritius Government


Jason Eligh

Jason Eligh

Senior Expert, Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime


Phoenix Mohawk Kellye

Phoenix Mohawk Kellye

Harm reduction educator & advocate for people who use drugs (PWUD)

Phoenix AKA Mohawk (they/them/he/him) is an intersectional harm reduction educator & advocate for people who use drugs (PWUD) that has provided in-person peer support services and online education and resources for over 10 years.


Ibrahim Kargbo

Ibrahim Kargbo

Deputy Executive Director, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, Sierra Leone Government

Deputy Executive Director, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, Sierra Leone Government


Mouhamadou Kane

Mouhamadou Kane

Analyst, GI-TOC

Analyst, Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime


Lucia Bird

Lucia Bird

Director of the West Africa Observatory, GI-TOC

Director of the West Africa Observatory, Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime

Hosts

Patricia Neves

Patricia Neves

Associate, GI-TOC


Maria Khoruk

Maria Khoruk

Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime, Analyst and JIED Managing Editor

Moderators

Rumbi Matamba

Rumbi Matamba

Analyst, GI-TOC

Analyst, GI-TOC