Revisiting sub-Saharan African countries' drug problems: health, social, economic costs, and drug control policy.
- PubMed: 11913904
This article takes an international perspective on the drug problem in sub-Saharan Africa. This analysis borrows ideas from physical and economic geography as a heuristic device to conceptualize the global narcoscapes in which drug trafficking occurs. Both the legitimate and the illegal drug trade operate within the same global capitalist system and draw on the same technological innovations and business processes. Central to the paper's argument is evidence that sub-Saharan African countries are now integrated into the political economy of drug consumption due to the spill-over effect. These countries are now minor markets for "hard drugs" as the result of the activities of organizations and individual traffickers that use Africa as a staging point in their trade with Europe and the United States. As a result, sub-Saharan African countries have drug consumption problems that were essentially absent prior to 1980, along with associated health, social, and economic costs. The emerging drug problem has forced African countries to develop their own drug control policy. The sub-Saharan African countries mentioned below vary to some extent in the level of drug use and misuse problems: Burundi, Comoros, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Reunion, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Angola, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Congo (Zaire), Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Sao Tome and Principe, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Cote d'Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo. As part of this effort, African countries are assessing the health, social, and economic costs of drug-use-related problems to pinpoint methods which are both effective and inexpensive, since their budgets for social programs are severely constrained. Many have progressed to the point of adopting anti-drug laws or legislation, or of establishing a drug control agency. They are also cooperating regionally to coordinate drug control measures and working with the Organization of African Unity (OAU). In addition, almost all the sub-Saharan African countries are signatories to all United Nations drug conventions. Since the drug problem in Africa has international origins, it will take concerted international cooperation and coordinated effort to combat the "social cancer" of drugs.