The Transatlantic Trafficking of Cocaine

cocaine trafficking flows
Cocaine trafficking flows. Map: Stable Seas.

In August of 2019, the Angolan courts convicted a Brazilian woman of narcotics trafficking and sentenced her to four years in prison. Just a few weeks ago, in January 2020, another Brazilian drug dealer was sentenced to eight years in an Angolan prison for international drug trafficking. These two cases are only the most recent illustrating the strengthening ties between the West African nation of Angola and transnational drug traffickers: over the last decade, Angola has grown into a favorite transshipment (or transit) point for several kinds of illicit substances originating in South America and destined for markets in Europe and Asia. 

In particular, however, reports suggest that Angola may be part of some well-organized cocaine trafficking routes which start in South American countries like Colombia, Bolivia, Peru, and Brazil and head to Europe by way of West Africa. Although only a small portion of cocaine trafficked globally is ultimately destined for Africa, evidence indicates that West African nations, including Angola and those in the Gulf of Guinea, are “increasingly preferred by drug traffickers as their main transit point” due to increased efforts to combat illicit drug smuggling in European countries.

Angola’s Role in Transatlantic Cocaine Trade

Angola’s role in the transatlantic cocaine trade is well documented. For example, a report dated July 1, 2019, describes a 238 kilogram cocaine shipment seized in the Port of Dakar, Senegal, found in the trunks of cars shipped by sea from Brazil and bound for Angola. Presumably, Angola was meant to be an additional transit point on the shipment’s journey to Europe. Additionally, in February 2018 authorities discovered at the port of capital city Luanda a 500 kilogram cocaine shipment on board a boat that had come from Brazil. 

Brazil is most likely the origin of most cocaine shipped to (and through) Angola. The two countries share a Lusophone language and research indicates that countries with a common language have a bolstered trade relationship. Unfortunately, strong trade links facilitate trade in illicit materials, or legal products traded illegally, as well. 

For more information about the state of maritime security in Angola, please explore the Stable Seas Maritime Security Index. The index maps and measures nine indicators of good maritime governance (including illicit trades), and was recently expanded to 70 countries across Africa and Asia. The index was created as a tool to enable policymakers in these countries to measure and track their progress towards comprehensive maritime security in their waters.