AFRICA: Highly profitable, environmental crime affects African economies

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Environmental-crime © De Kletr - Shutterstock

A report published in September 2018 by UN Environment and Interpol states that environmental crimes are on the rise around the world. In Africa, measures are beginning to be deployed on the ground to stop the phenomenon, which is rusting the economy, particularly tourism.

It is not on the front page of all media, unlike drug trafficking or money laundering. Yet environmental crime is presented as a canker worm in the global economy. A report, published in September 2018, by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Interpol presents the quantified state of affairs. “It is widely recognised that environmental crimes are among the most profitable forms of transnational criminal activity. Their value in 2016 was estimated between US$91 billion and US$259 billion. And the rapporteurs went on to say: “This is probably the fourth most lucrative criminal activity after drug trafficking, counterfeiting and human trafficking. According to the UNEP, environmental crimes are constantly increasing, by 5 and 7% each year.

The forest is presented as the first victim, as the illegal timber trade alone has generated between $50 billion and $152 billion. It is followed by illegal fishing, which generates between $10 billion and $2 billion annually. According to Interpol, “the amount of money lost due to environmental crime is 10,000 times higher than that spent by international agencies to combat it.”

Africa pays a high price

Five activities are mainly concerned with environmental crime. These are wildlife, illegal logging, illegal fishing, illegal mining and environmental pollution. With regard to environmental pollution, Africa is the main victim, as the continent has become in recent years the preferred destination for illegal waste, mainly from European countries. According to the report, illegal fishing cost Africa nearly $1 billion in 2015. In addition, the expansion of health crises, such as the Ebola epidemic, which has wreaked havoc in Africa in recent years, has reportedly been facilitated by deforestation.

Africa seeks for solutions

“Environmental crime is increasing at an alarming rate. The complexity of this type of crime requires a multisectoral response based on cross-border collaboration.” This statement by Interpol Secretary General Jürgen Stock sufficiently demonstrates the urgency of developing concerted policies to track down and punish all the “environmental killers”.

UN environment and Interpol suggest that legal frameworks, both national and international, be developed to regulate the activities of the sector. The report also proposes a legal arsenal: strengthening control systems, reforming judicial systems, etc. UN Environment recently joined forces with the Association of African Prosecutors to develop manuals and training programs on the prosecution of environmental crimes. The documents will be used for the training of African police and prosecutors to strengthen their capacity to investigate and prosecute crimes committed in the environmental sector.

African decision makers are gradually becoming aware of the damage caused to their country’s environment, people and economy. Meetings are multiplying in Africa, as in the whole world. The seventh special session of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN), held in September 2018 in Nairobi, Kenya, identified environmental crime and corruption as obstacles to Africa’s efforts to combat ecosystem degradation. However, their services have a significant impact on the economies of countries.

Eco-tourism as a source of prosperity and security

African tourism, for example, struggles to attract 5% of the world’s tourists, despite its priceless natural capital… which is deteriorating. The solution to reconcile tourism development and environmental protection could be the more assertive development of ecotourism; certainly what Naledi Khabo, Executive Director of the African Tourism Association (ATA), believed when she said on September 12, 2018 at the Cape Town conference on promoting tourism in Africa. She stated that “countries that have succeeded in tourism are those that have made the choice of ecotourism”. She cited the examples of Tanzania and Rwanda. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on his part says that the biodiversity economy could create more than 162,000 jobs and produce nearly $3.2 billion. By 2014, ecotourism had contributed $212 million to GDP and four years later, this figure has already doubled….

Luchelle Feukeng


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