Curtailing Illegal Trafficking is Critical to Stable Economy in Africa
28 March 2012
US AFRICOM Public Affairs - March 26, 2012
STUTTGART, Germany, Mar 26, 2012 — U.S. Africa Command personnel had a chance to learn about drug smuggling, illegal arms transportation and other issues affecting maritime and air cargo trade from a leading expert in the field, March 23, 2012.
Hugh Griffiths, a senior researcher at the Stockholm International Peace Research, met Friday with representatives from the command group, the intelligence and planning directorates, as well as several other stakeholders in maritime and air cargo security.
Griffiths also moderated two round-table discussions, which gave participants a chance to ask detailed questions.
SIPRI is an independent think tank that researches conflict, armaments, arms control and disarmament. It's among the world's top think tanks on African issues, according to the University of Pennsylvania's Think Tank Index.
The organization also provides databases and research on African weapons trafficking, organized crime networks, and illicit maritime and air cargo trade.
The latter was the primary topic during Griffiths' visit.
"The line between what is illegal, what is illicit and what is perfectly acceptable is often blurred," Griffiths said.
Griffiths said this is especially true on the African continent, where an air cargo carrier could be transporting illegal arms one day and much-needed humanitarian aid the next.
Pete Burgess, who works in AFRICOM's counter-narcotics division and participated in one of the roundtable discussions, pointed out that curtailing illegal and illicit trafficking is critical to a stable economy.
"It's that free flow of goods and services that's going to help Africa develop economically," Burgess said.
Griffiths said everything from fishing boats to private jets is used for smuggling, often times without the pilot or ship captain knowing what the cargo is. Other times, the owner of the vessel might not be aware.