Fueled by corruption and bad governance, illicit trafficking and organized crime have destablizing effects going well beyond local communities. By funding terrorism, they impact peace and security in the region.

These intricate linkages in the Sahel region are a source of concern for the international community as terrorism rises up. This illegal economy provides lucrative opportunities for unscrupulous politicians at all levels of government, while exploiting poor people living mainly in border areas. 

According to the UN, cocaine trafficking remains among the most lucrative illicit activities. In April 2017, the UNODC reported that developing markets are fueling a resurgence of cocaine trafficking through West Africa.

UNODC further added that seizures on the Atlantic island of Cabo Verde, in the Gambia, Nigeria, and Ghana had contributed to a 78 percent increase in cocaine seizures from 2009-2014 compared to the previous reporting period.

Smugglers and traffickers who intake the cocaine from the Americas will typically transport drugs and other contraband overland across the Sahel and North Africa, before crossing into destination markets in Europe and new developing markets in the Middle East and Southeast Asia.