Criminality has risen across Africa, crime index shows

24 November 2023 - 18:56
By Kgaugelo Masweneng
 Criminality has risen across Africa, with growth in crimes such as human and arms trafficking, a new report shows.
Image: Nolo Moima Criminality has risen across Africa, with growth in crimes such as human and arms trafficking, a new report shows.

Criminality has risen across Africa, with growth in crimes such as human and arms trafficking.

This is according to the ENACT Organised Crime Index for Africa released on Friday.

According to the report, while democratic countries still face their own challenges, experiencing varying levels of criminality and resilience, the relationship between democracy and resilience is fairly easy to establish.

“Democracies, such as Cabo Verde, South Africa, Mauritius and Botswana, which are assessed to have higher resilience scores, have relatively well-established checks and balances for state accountability, and strong non-state actors and social protection mechanisms, such as an active civil society that participates in the fight against organised crime.

“Democracies with an established rule of law also tend to have stronger institutions and (to some extent) lower levels of corruption, as well as a generally independent judiciary and relatively effective law enforcement, which are key elements in combating organised crime,” said the report.

The 2023 Index is the third iteration of this tool, offering an insight into the criminal markets,
criminal actors and the state of resilience in Africa in 2022, as well as a longitudinal
analysis spanning 2018 to 2022.
Image: screenshot The 2023 Index is the third iteration of this tool, offering an insight into the criminal markets, criminal actors and the state of resilience in Africa in 2022, as well as a longitudinal analysis spanning 2018 to 2022.

“In 2023, at the continental level, all the original criminal markets increased in prevalence.

“The most pervasive criminal market in Africa was human trafficking, which scored 6.06, an increase of 0.70 points since the first iteration of the index in 2019,when it was initially measured at a continental average of 5.36.

“The incremental growth of this illicit market, with an average score of 5.93 in 2021, coincided with heightened levels of conflict across the continent. The consequences of conflict, including forced displacement, modern forms of slavery, forced recruitment (such as child soldiers) and disruptions in social and familial structures led to an increased vulnerability to human trafficking,” said the report.

During the reporting period of the research, Africa faced numerous challenges, including armed conflicts, the long-term effects of the pandemic, the global ramifications of the Russia—Ukraine war, extreme climate events (including droughts and flooding), and heightened political instabilities.

The Index’s results show that widespread insecurity has influenced and sustained criminality patterns
on the continent (and vice versa).
Image: screenshot The Index’s results show that widespread insecurity has influenced and sustained criminality patterns on the continent (and vice versa).

Political violence increased in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, where state forces were engaged in ongoing conflict with violent extremist groups.

“Armed conflict spilt over in West Africa, reportedly fuelling criminal groups and armed bandits, who sought to expand their areas of influence. At the same time, illicit economies, such as cattle rustling and kidnapping for ransom, continued to undermine stability in the region, illustrating the growing ‘geographic overlap between crime and conflict zones'.”

These conditions created an ideal environment for criminal markets and actors to flourish and extend their influence on the continent. Between 2019 and 2023, overall criminality in Africa rose from 4.97 to 5.25, increasing by 0.20 points between 2019 and 2021 and by 0.08 points since 2021.

“This notable difference in the overall criminality average highlights that while certain new criminal markets exhibit lower pervasiveness on the continent, many of the original criminality indicators are gaining a stronger foothold in Africa,” the report said. 

It is still worthy of attention as some of the newly added indicators may expand in the following years and their impact is already notable in some contexts, it said.

It said the escalation of criminal activities across the continent emphasises the undeniable effects of organised crime on the stability of African states and the security of their citizens.

“Yet Southern Africa contains countries with some of the highest overall criminality scores on the continent, such as South Africa (7.18) and Mozambique (6.20).Therefore, to have a comprehensive understanding of the continent’s criminal landscape, it is important to explore the subcomponents of criminality, i.e. criminal markets and criminal actors at both continental and regional levels.”

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